‘None can be permitted to intimidate or terrorize Judges by making scandalous unwarranted and baseless imputations against them in the discharge of their judicial functions so as to secure orders which the litigant “wants”.’
The Himachal Pradesh High Court has sentenced a lawyer to one-month imprisonment for his contemptuous comment against judges on his Facebook page.
The bench of Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Justice Chander Bhusan Barowalia, which also ordered the deletion of Vikas Sanoria’s Facebook account, observed that growing trend of “judges bashing” has to be stopped and dealt with an iron fist.
The high court had suo motu criminal contempt proceedings against Vikas Sanoria noticing that he had made certain scurrilous and indecent attacks against a Judicial Magistrate. Even after this, the lawyer continued posting several comments, some even abusive, targeting judges of the high court. All this started after the lawyer’s application before the Magistrate got rejected.
Judge bashing will become the norm if immediate action is not taken
“Judiciary cannot be reduced to the position of flies in the hands of wanton boys. Judge bashing is not and cannot be a substitute for constructive criticism…. until and unless immediate action is not taken, Judge bashing will become the norm and it will become difficult to preserve and protect the institution of Judiciary,” the bench remarked after noting that the language used by Vikas Sanoria is intemperate and contemptuous.
Referring to various precedents, the bench observed: “If the attempts of the respondent are encouraged the judicial independence would vanish eroding the very edifice on which the institution of justice stands. Any action on the part of a litigant which has the tendency to interfere with or obstruct the due course of justice has to be dealt with sternly and firmly to uphold the majesty of law. None can be permitted to intimidate or terrorize Judges by making scandalous unwarranted and baseless imputations against them in the discharge of their judicial functions so as to secure orders which the litigant “wants”.”
Litigants can’t be allowed to ‘terrorize’ or ‘intimidate’ judges with a view to ‘secure’ orders which they want
The court also added that liberty of free expression cannot be permitted to be treated as a licence to make reckless imputations against the impartiality of the judges deciding the cases and even criticism of the judgment has to be in a dignified and temperate language and without any malice.
“No lawyer can be permitted to browbeat the court or malign the Presiding Officer with a view to get a favourable order. Judges shall not be able to perform their duties freely and fairly if such activities are permitted or tolerated and justice would become a casualty and Rule of Law would receive a setback. The Judges are obliged to decide cases impartially and without any fear or favour. Litigants cannot, be allowed to ‘terrorize’ or ‘intimidate’ judges with a view to ‘secure’ orders which they want. This is basic and fundamental and no civilized system of administration of justice can permit it,” the bench added.
The bench refused to accept the apology offered. It said: “Apology is an act of contrition. Unless apology is offered in good grace, the apology is shorn of penitence and hence it is liable to be rejected. If the apology is offered at the time when the contemnor finds that the court is going to an act of a cringing coward… Apology is not a weapon of defence to purge the guilty of their offence nor is it intended to operate as universal panacea, but it is intended to be evidence of real contriteness.”
The bench further observed: “The trend of targetting and making wild allegations against the Judges would lead to a catastrophe and, therefore, has to be stopped and dealt with an iron fist to curb and control the growing trend of “Judges bashing”. This message has to go out and must be loud and clear.”
Apart from ordering the imprisonment of one month and Rs.10,000 fine, the bench directed the registry to ensure that Facebook account of the lawyer is deleted.