15 Sep 2022 12:28 PM GMT
The Madras High Court(Madurai Bench) on Thursday sentenced Savukku Shankar to six months simple imprisonment in a suo moto contempt proceeding for his remarks against the higher judiciary. The bench also refused to entertain the request of Mr. Shankar to suspend the sentence until filing of appeal before the Supreme Court. The court thus directed that Mr. Shankar be forthwith taken to...
The Madras High Court(Madurai Bench) on Thursday sentenced Savukku Shankar to six months simple imprisonment in a suo moto contempt proceeding for his remarks against the higher judiciary. The bench also refused to entertain the request of Mr. Shankar to suspend the sentence until filing of appeal before the Supreme Court. The court thus directed that Mr. Shankar be forthwith taken to custody and lodged in Central Prison, Madurai.
The conduct of the contemnor deserves to be noted. Nowhere he expressed his regret or remorse. He did not offer any apology at all. On the other hand, he asserted that he was justified in making the charged statements. A reading of the charged statements would lead anyone to the conclusion that they are likely to lower the prestige and dignity of courts and judges. We, therefore, hold that the contemnor is guilty of criminal contempt.
The orders were passed by a bench of Justice GR Swaminathan and Justice B Pugalendhi. This was the second suo moto contempt proceeding initiated against Mr Shankar. Mr Shankar, in a Youtube interview with Redpix channel, had remarked that " The entire higher judiciary is riddled with corruption". Earlier, another contempt case was taken against him for his tweets against Justice GR Swaminathan.
The court observed that the Contemnor, Mr Shankar had himself admitted to making such statements which is ex-facie scandalous.
It is to be noted that the contemnor admitted having made all the charged statements. It does not require a forensic mind to conclude that they are ex-facie scandalous. They denigrate and deride the institution of judiciary. The legal maxim "res ipsa loquitor" (the thing speaks for itself) can be analogically applied.
The court also observed that the statements were not a slip of tongue and in fact by taring the entire institution with a single brush, Mr Shankar had crossed the lakshman rekha by a long shot.
The contemnor would be well within his rights to highlight specific instances of corruption. Of course, they must be backed by materials. He cannot tar the entire institution with a single brush. That would be crossing the lakshman rekha by a long shot. It is not as if the said remark accidently tumbled out of his mouth. It was not a slip of the tongue.
With respect to Mr Shankar's contention that Justice GR Swaminathan, against whom certain remarks were made could not be a judge in his own case, the court observed that Justice Swaminathan after taking note of the tweet had directed the Registry to place the matter before the Chief Justice. It was the Chief Justice who constituted the bench for hearing the suo moto contempt case. When the Chief Justice, as the Master of the Roster had directed that this Bench should deal with the case of criminal contempt against the contemnor herein, it is the bounden duty of this Bench to do so.
Previously, when he appeared in court, Mr. Shankar stated that he stood by his statement. On 8th September, when the court had sought a reply from Mr. Shankar, he sought further time and also sought transcripts of the interview. This request was rejected by the court which posted the matter to 2:15 on the same day for framing charges. However, the court later gave Mr. Shankar one week's time to file the reply and posted the matter today.
When the matter was taken up today, Mr. Shankar submitted his reply. In his reply, Mr. Shankar claimed that no action had been taken against the first suo moto contempt proceeding initiated against him. Further, he contended that in the present case, the court had been expanding charges unfairly which made it difficult for him to file a proper reply.
Mr. Shankar contended that since the country does not protect whistleblowers, the victims/people who needed help came to him since they were unable to come forward openly. He would then speak on the issue after verification. Mr. Shankar also criticized the manner in which the proceedings were carried out in the present case. Mr. Shankar submitted that it was necessary for Free Speech, free Opinions, free Thoughts to be protected so that the Judiciary could also benefit from a variety of opinions.
Case Title: Registrar Judicial v. Shankar @ Savukku Sankar and others
Case No: Cont P(MD) 1124 of 2022
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 404
Appearance for Registry: Shri.A.L.Somayaji, Senior Counsel assisted by Shri.N.Mohideen Basha Standing counsel for High Court
For Respondents: Mrs.L.Victoria Gowri, Assistant Solicitor General of India for Madurai Bench (R5)
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