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One year limitation period applicable for suo-motu contempt proceedings as well: SC [Read Judgment]

Ashok KM
7 July 2016 6:41 AM GMT
One year limitation period applicable for suo-motu contempt proceedings as well: SC [Read Judgment]
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SC has set aside the Allahabad High Court's suo motu Contempt proceedings against Outlook Magazine

The Supreme Court in MAHESHWAR PERI VS. HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT ALLAHABAD has held that one year limitation period as provided in Section 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act also applies for Suo motu initiation of contempt proceedings by Supreme Court or High Court.

The Outlook Magazine, in its 10.11.2008 edition, published an article authored by the third appellant, which mainly dealt with the infamous Provident Fund Scam. The names of the Judges, who are allegedly involved in the case, were also published.

On 18.11.2008, one Mr. Manoj Kumar Srivastava and Mr. Veer Singh, Advocates practicing in the High Court of Allahabad had petitioned to High Court to take contempt. According to them, the article “has caused great insult to the Higher Judiciary. The remarks are derogatory and have lowered the authority of the Higher Judiciary.” Learned Counsel appearing for the respondent/High Court of Allahabad submits that the petition was placed before a Single Judge of the High Court, and thereafter, before the Chief Justice. It appears, for about four years, nothing happened in the matter until it was listed before the Division Bench of the High Court leading to the impugned order dated 28.04.2015

In 2015, the Allahabad High Court had initiated a Suo Motu contempt proceedings against author of an article which appeared in Outlook Magazine in 2008. This order of the High Court was challenged before the Apex Court.

Referring to Pallav Sheth v. Custodian and others, the Apex Court bench comprising of Justices Kurian Joseph and R.F. Nariman said “Be it an action initiated for contempt under Article 129 of the Constitution of India by the Supreme Court or under Article 215 of the Constitution of India by the High Court, it is now settled law that the prosecution procedure should be in consonance with the Act.”

Allowing the appeal, the Court said “the High Court is clear in its mind that the action under Section 15 of the Act is initiated suo motu by the High Court. To make it abundantly clear 7 Page 8 in the impugned order, it is said that the name of the petitioner is not to be shown in the cause list. Apparently, it can only be suo motu because the application filed by the advocates, and which is referred to in the impugned order, is without the consent in writing of the Advocate General. The only application other than by the Advocate General, contemplated under Section 15 of the Act, is the motion made by any person with the consent in writing of the Advocate General. Being a jurisdiction which, when exercised, is fraught with serious consequences, the Parliament has thought it justifiably fit to provide for such safeguards. Thus, the impugned article, having been published on 10.11.2008 and the High Court having initiated the suo motu action only on 28.04.2015, the same is hit by the limitation of one year prescribed under the Act.”

Read the Judgment here.

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