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'Busybodies Feel They Can Comment Anything In Social Media' : Kerala High Court Directs Registry To Act Against Ex-Judge's FB Posts

Hannah M Varghese
23 Dec 2021 9:09 AM GMT
Busybodies Feel They Can Comment Anything In Social Media : Kerala High Court Directs Registry To Act Against Ex-Judges FB Posts
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The Kerala High Court on Thursday condemned the conduct of former judicial officer S. Sudeep for making a series of "vile" Facebook posts attacking the Court and its orders.However, Justice Devan Ramachandran refused to initiate contempt of court proceedings against him, saying that the Court didn't wish to give him undue publicity. "The man in question seeks relevance through his...

The Kerala High Court on Thursday condemned the conduct of former judicial officer S. Sudeep for making a series of "vile" Facebook posts attacking the Court and its orders.

However, Justice Devan Ramachandran refused to initiate contempt of court proceedings against him, saying that the Court didn't wish to give him undue publicity.

"The man in question seeks relevance through his wanton utterances, and the greatest punishment I can give is to treat him as inconsequential and deny him his '15 minutes of fame' trying to ride on this Court. The summons issued to him by the Court is dismissed", the Court stated in the order.

Nevertheless, the Court directed the Registry to take appropriate action as per law against the former Sub-judge: 

"The Registry is directed to take necessary action on the compilation of posts made by him as per law after obtaining necessary orders from the Chief Justice of High Court of Kerala."

During the last hearing of the case, the court had taken note of a post uploaded on Sudeep's Facebook handle attacking the orders passed by it. Sudeep had resigned from judicial service earlier this year while he was facing High Court's disciplinary proceedings over his social media comments.

The social media post was brought to the attention of the court by a member of the Bar Council, Advocate Mohammed Shah. The Facebook post had allegedly ridiculed the Judge for the orders passed in the case of fake antique dealer Monson Mavunkal and had expressed particular objection to the suo-motu impleadment of the Enforcement Directorate and DGP into the matter.

The Court noted that in his post, Sudeep had 'disrespectfully commented on its orders, made personal attacks against the judge and added certain opinions of his, which prima facie could only be thought to be intended to derail this case and to take it to a different trajectory.'

The Registry was directed to instantaneously verify the authenticity of the post and provide the Court with a copy of the same accompanied with a translation. It was further asked to issue notice to Sudeep through multiple modes permitted by law. Accordingly, the former judicial officer was 'requested' to appear before the Court today.

"Since he was a judicial officer, certainly, I would like to hear him so he can inform me where the Court has been going wrong according to him", Justice Devan Ramachandran had observed in the previous order.

However, Sudeep did not make an appearance today. 

During today's proceedings, the said post was confirmed by the Registry and copies of the same were produced before the Court after following the procedure for certification prescribed under the Information Technology Act. It was brought to the attention of the Court that following the last order, Sudeep had posted several other follow up Facebook posts, in which he had personally targeted the judge. 

"This man is expressing an intention to self-harm in some posts. He is comparing himself to Stan Swamy and Judge Loya. He is certainly hallucinating. He is not in his senses", Justice Ramachandran orally commented after seeing the compilation of posts.

The Director-General of Prosecution T.A Shaji also submitted that some of the posts also levelled allegations against the police by saying that they were visiting his home and disturbing his aged parents. The Court then clarified that it had never ordered for an investigation, but had only left the matter to the police to decide whether an inquiry is needed.

The Judge added that the social media post was only considered since he suspected a malicious intent to derail the probe in the Monson Mavunkal case.

"I reacted to this (post) only because I thought he was trying to derail the investigation. But this man is a coward; he doesn't want to come here. He is just trying to be a self-proclaimed martyr; he's hallucinating...I'm not going to glorify him by taking contempt of court action against him."

Justice Devan Ramachandran said that he was not bothered about the personal attacks made against him; but if the posts are intended at derailing the investigation in the case, then the Court will not hesitate to intervene. "I am not affected by all these...I am made of sterner stuff", Justice Ramachandran said.

The Court also strongly doubted Sudeep's presence in the virtual mode to observe the proceedings discreetly. Therefore, before dictating the order, the Court remarked looking at the camera: "I hope you can see me and that you're listening to this."

The order started as such:

"The tragedy with the present days is that busybodies feel that they can comment about anything on social media under the impression that no accountability will come to be on them. Social media is good - in the hands of the good and worthy. But for some, it is an unrestrained playground...One can only leave them to their mischief until the long arms of law reach them."

The Court also noted that Sudeep was projecting himself as a martyr and threatening to harm himself. Refusing to give him the opportunity for the same, it dismissed the summons issued to him 'recognizing that he will have nothing worthwhile to submit'.

Justice Ramachandran orally expressed concern at the trend in social media to label people if they do not subscribe to any particular ideology.

"But the majority of people are right thinking. The majority of the bar is right thinking. It is only a small minuscule section which does mischief", he orally said.

In the order, the bench made observations regarding free speech being abused in social media, making even right-thinking people to call for regulations.

"Free speech is the key to internet and I am personally a strong votary of the same. The power of expression is a most valuable and forceful facet of human existence, but a few - as the individual we notice here - push this freedom to extremes, unfortunately goaded by cyber "friends" who by their "likes" and "comments" spur on but never to be part of the consequences into which he will finally be pushed into. These are instances which would compel even right thinking individuals to seek regulation of online spaces," the Court said.

"The scenario is thus clear, the mindset of this individual is nihilistic and I therefore close this opportunity of hearing to him, recognising that he will have nothing worthwhile to to submit," the order stated.


Case Title: Ajith E.V. v. The Commissioner of Police & Ors.

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