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There Is No Requirement Of Taking Attorney General's Consent In Suo Motu Contempt Proceedings:SC [Read Judgment]

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
14 Aug 2020 4:11 PM GMT
There Is No Requirement Of Taking Attorney Generals Consent In Suo Motu Contempt Proceedings:SC [Read Judgment]
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"The strong arm of the law must, in the name of public interest and public justice, strike a blow on him who challenges the supremacy of the rule of law by fouling its source and stream."
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In its judgment holding Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt, the Supreme Court observed that it has got the constitutional power to initiate criminal contempt proceedings suo motu on the basis of information received by it and in such cases there is no requirement for taking consent of Attorney General to issue notice for contempt.

"As far as the suo motu petitions are concerned, there is no requirement for taking consent of anybody, including the learned Attorney General because the Court is exercising its inherent powers to issue notice for contempt. It is equally well settled, that once the Court takes cognizance, the matter is purely between the Court and the contemnor. The only requirement is that the procedure followed is required to be just and fair and in accordance with the principles of natural justice."

The court made this observation while addressing the contention made by Sr. Advocate Dushyant Dave that the proceedings against Prashant Bhushan are initiated on the basis of the petition filed by one Maheshwari and that the same cannot be treated as a suo motu contempt petition. He had contended that unless there is a consent given by the Attorney General for India, the proceedings could not have been initiated on the basis of the said complaint. The Senior Advocate referred to Section 15 of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971, which provides for three ways of initiating a  criminal contempt - (i) suo motu (ii) on the motion by the Advocate General/Attorney General/Solicitor General and (iii) on the basis of a petition filed by any other person with the consent in writing of the Advocate General/Attorney General/Solicitor General.

Article 129 Is Source Of Contempt Power; Section 15 Cannot Limit It

Referring to a recent judgment in Re: Vijay Kurle and also Article 129 of the Constitution, the bench said that the source of its power for proceeding for an action of contempt is under Article 129 and the said power is not in any manner limited by the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act Article 129 states that the Supreme Court.shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself. The bench observed:

"The Court is vested with the constitutional powers to deal with the contempt and Section 15 is not the source of the power to issue notice for contempt. It only provides the procedure in which such contempt is to be initiated. It has been held that insofar as suo motu petitions are concerned, the Court can very well initiate the proceedings suo motu on the basis of information received by it. The only requirement is that the procedure as prescribed in the judgment of P.N. Duda (supra) has to be followed. In the present case, the same has undoubtedly been followed. It is also equally settled, that as far as the suo motu petitions are concerned, there is no requirement for taking consent of anybody, including the learned Attorney General because the Court is exercising its inherent powers to issue notice for contempt. It is equally well settled, that once the Court takes cognizance, the matter is purely between the Court and the contemnor. The only requirement is that the procedure followed is required to be just and fair and in accordance with the principles of natural justice."

The court added that, in the instant case, the notice issued to Bhushan and Twitter clearly mentions the tweets on the basis of which the Court is proceeding suo motu. While concluding the judgment, the bench further observed: 

The Indian Constitution has given a special role to the constitutional courts of this country. The Supreme Court is a protector of the fundamental rights of the citizens, as also is endowed with a duty to keep the other pillars of democracy i.e. the Executive and the Legislature, within the constitutional bounds. If an attack is made to shake the confidence that the public at large has in the institution of judiciary, such an attack has to be dealt with firmly. No doubt, that it may be better in many cases for the judiciary to adopt a magnanimously charitable attitude even when utterly uncharitable and unfair criticism of its operations is made out of bona fide concern for improvement. However, when there appears some scheme and design to bring about results which have the tendency of damaging the confidence in our judicial system and demoralize the Judges of the highest court by making malicious attacks, those interested in maintaining high standards of fearless, impartial and unbending justice will have to stand firmly. If such an attack is not dealt with, with requisite degree of firmness, it may affect the national honour and prestige in the comity of nations. Fearless and impartial courts of justice are the bulwark of a healthy democracy and the confidence in them cannot be permitted to be impaired by malicious attacks upon them.

As observed by Justice Krishna Iyer in the case of Re: S. Mulgaokar (supra), on which judgment, Shri Dave has strongly relied on, if the Court considers the attack on the judge or judges scurrilous, offensive, intimidatory or malicious beyond condonable limits, the strong arm of the law must, in the name of public interest and public justice, strike a blow on him who challenges the supremacy of the rule of law by fouling its source and stream.


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