SC quashed the Delhi HC order finding Mid-Day Editor, Publisher and Cartoonist for Contempt of Court for publishing materials against former CJI Justice Sabharwal.
A High Court cannot initiate contempt proceedings or punish for contempt of the Supreme Court, the apex court has held in an important pronouncement on Monday in Vitusah Oberoi vs Court of Its Own Motion.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur set aside an order of division bench of Delhi High Court, which found editors and cartoonists of Mid-Day newspaper guilty of contempt for maligning the former Chief Justice of India . The High court had suo motu initiated contempt after an advocate brought such cartoons and news reports to its notice. The report had alleged that Justice Sabharwal had, by reason of some orders passed by a bench headed by him, benefited the partnership business of his sons in real estate development in and around Delhi.
In Septemeber 2007, Mid-Day City Editor M K Tayal, Publisher Vitusha Oberoi,Resident Editor S K Akhtar, and Cartoonist Irfan Khan, were held guilty of Contempt by Delhi High Court.
HC cannot punish for the contempt of SC
The apex court observed that such publication can be seen as contemptuous vis-a-vis the Supreme Court. “The Initiation of proceedings by the High Court in such circumstances …meant to vindicate the Supreme Court more than the High Court who initiated those proceedings. The question is whether the High Court could do so,” the bench said.
Referring to Articles 129 and 215 of the Constitution of India, the bench observed that the power to punish for contempt vested in a Court of Record under Article 215 does not extend to punishing for the contempt of a superior court. “A priori if the power to punish under Article 215 is limited to the contempt of the High Court or courts subordinate to the High Court as appears to us to be the position, there was no way the High Court could justify invoking that power to punish for the contempt of a superior court,” the court said.
‘Simple logic why Article 215 does not empower HC to punish for contempt of SC’
The bench also said that its power to punish for its contempt has been in no uncertain terms recognised by Article 129 of the Constitution. “If Supreme Court does not, despite the availability of the power vested in it, invoke the same to punish for its contempt, there is no question of a Court subordinate to the Supreme Court doing so,” the bench said.
Read the Judgment here.