The Punjab and Haryana High Court has instituted suo moto contempt proceedings against a Court Clerk, posted at the Sessions Court in Mansa, allegedly for maligning Judicial Officers via Youtube.
The contemnor, Harmeet Singh, is accused of creating a YouTube account titled "Ugly face of Indian Judiciary, Ludhiana", and uploading videos "lambasting" the judicial officers by leveling false allegations against them.
Through the said channel, it is alleged, the contemnor has openly criticized the District & Sessions Judge, Ludhiana and ADJ Ranjit Kumar Jain for allegedly manipulating his transfer to Mansa Sessions Division. The contemnor has also leveled such allegations against two sitting Judges of the High Court.
The proceedings have been initiated pursuant to a reference by the District & Sessions Judge, Ludhiana, who stated that through his channel, the contemnor had attempted to intimidate the Judges with the sole motive of seeking his transfer back to Ludhiana.
During the course of hearing, the contemnor informed the Court that he had already been punished pursuant to a departmental enquiry and four of his annual grade pay increments were stopped with cumulative effect under Rule 5(v) to (ix) of the Punjab Civil Services (Punishment & Appeal) Rules, 1970.
He accordingly contended the present contempt proceedings would amount to double jeopardy. It was also argued that putting material on the YouTube does not amount to "publication" for the public at large because the YouTube account is a personal one and is restricted only to few acquaintances.
Refuting these arguments the bench comprised by Justice Jawant Singh and Justice Sant Parkash observed,
"After having heard learned counsel for the parties and going through the voluminous record on the file, we are of the considered view that on account of the variant stands of both the parties, it would be in the interest of justice, if proper charge is framed against the respondent - contemnor and opportunity is given to substantiate his claim by way of producing evidence, if any. The contentions so raised on behalf of the respondent - contemnor with regard to the double jeopardy, the circulation by way of YouTube not amounting to publication and whether it amounted to scandalizing the judicial system, are the moot questions which can be answered only after the evidence and submissions of both the parties are evaluated."
The court thus proceeded to frame charges against the contemnor and posted the matter for consideration on September 24.
Case Title: Court On Its Own Motion v. Harmeet Singh
Case No.: CROCP No. 10/2013
Quorum: Justice Jawant Singh and Justice Sant Parkash
Appearance: Advocate PS Hundal (Amicus Curiae); Advocate Rajvinder Singh Bains (for Respondent)
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