Is This Fair Comment That You Attribute Motive To The Judiciary? Delhi HC Asks In The Contempt Case Against S. Gurumurthy

Is This Fair Comment That You Attribute Motive To The Judiciary? Delhi HC Asks In The Contempt Case Against S. Gurumurthy

The Delhi High Court Thursday expressed anguish over the comments made by an editor of a Chennai-based news magazine against a sitting high court judge and said the case concerns the judicial system.

A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and I S Mehta said journalistic licence does not give a person the right to make unsavoury allegations.

"We are all in for free press but don't attribute motive to us," the bench said.

The court was hearing a contempt plea filed against Swaminathan Gurumurthy, editor of Tamil weekly magazine 'Thuglak' by the Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA).

The bench said the present case does not concern a specific judge but the judicial system and observed, "We are not supposed to defend ourselves on social media. Judges don't defend themselves. Is this fair comment that you attribute motive to the judiciary? We are dismayed."

The counsel for Gurumurthy, also a chartered accountant and an economic analyst, sought time to file reply to the rejoinder given by the DHCBA.

The court, however, said there can be no reply to a rejoinder and asked the counsel to proceed with his defence.

Gurumurthy's advocate said he was an eminent journalist and the tweet was merely a question and claimed that the petition filed by DHCBA was not maintainable.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on December 4.

The contempt petition had sought punishment for the editor for "lowering the authority" of the court by posting certain tweets in connection with its decision to protect senior Congress leader P Chidambaram's son Karti from arrest till March 20.

It alleged that the editor never tendered an apology for making "scandalous" allegations against a judge of the division bench which had passed the order.

"The respondent (Gurumurthy) continues to instigate other misinformed followers by encouraging and supporting the opinions criticising the order of the division bench, and has also failed to tender to this court and judiciary as a whole an unconditional public apology," it had said.

A bench of justices S Muralidhar and I S Mehta had on March 12 taken up the issue on its own after judges from Tamil Nadu forwarded the tweets in question to it.

The bench had dubbed as "mischievous" certain tweets by Gurumurthy saying the tweets, posted within a few hours of the court's March 9 order in the INX media case, immediately invited responses.

It had also noted that despite the tweets by others in response to the innuendo and clarifying the correct position, "he (editor) cared not to withdraw the mischievous and false tweet".

The court, which had taken suo motu cognisance of the issue, said while it was conscious that such tweets were "ill informed" and were "best ignored", but since the person in question was an editor of a popular magazine having over 2,59,000 followers, it considered it appropriate to place the correct information.

Another bench of the high court had earlier issued contempt notice to Gurumurthy and sought his response on a plea for his tweets against the same judge after it passed an order on October 1 releasing rights activists Gautam Navlakha from house arrest in the Koregaon-Bhima violence case.

The court had directed two social media platforms to block the weblinks of the offending article levelling "scandalous" allegations against the judge.

(This story has not been edited by LiveLaw and is from PTI feed)