9 Oct 2023 1:25 PM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday (09.10.2023) while considering the plea of Nipun Cherian, the President of political party 'V4 Kochi', against the order of the division bench of the Kerala High Court that sentenced him to four months imprisonment in a suo motu contempt proceeding initiated by it, for his statements against a sitting judge of the High Court, sought the response of the High Court...
The Supreme Court on Monday (09.10.2023) while considering the plea of Nipun Cherian, the President of political party 'V4 Kochi', against the order of the division bench of the Kerala High Court that sentenced him to four months imprisonment in a suo motu contempt proceeding initiated by it, for his statements against a sitting judge of the High Court, sought the response of the High Court of Kerala and directed the relevant additional details to be brought on record.
A bench of Justice AS Bopanna and Justice MM Sundresh, deprecated the way in which Cherian conducted himself during the contempt proceedings. "We are really sorry about the way in which he conducted himself during the contempt proceedings," Justice Bopanna said. Justice Sundresh termed his conduct 'reprehensible'.
The Apex Court was referring to an incident wherein Cherian had insisted on entering the High Court premises with some of his party colleagues on a date he was asked to appear for hearing of the contempt proceedings against him. When the High Court Security refused entry to his colleagues due to security reasons, Cherian left without entering appearance in court. The High Court had adversely commented on such conduct of Cherian by observing : “Such conduct on the part of litigants entering the premises of this hallowed institution, and especially from one who is already facing trial for criminal contempt of this Court, is wholly unacceptable and will not be countenanced under any circumstances".
The Supreme Court had also echoed similar views when the matter first came up before it on 27th September..
Today, the Apex Court referred to the observations of the Kerala High Court, that recorded Cherian's refusal to tender an apology. "even when we afforded him an opportunity to express his remorse, in conclusion of the final argument, he refused to apologise.." the High Court had recorded.
When the matter first came up before the Apex Court, the Court had asked Cherian's counsel to convert the SLP filed, into a statutory appeal.
Senior Adv. R Basant appearing for the Kerala High Court submitted that after the matter came up before the Apex Court on 27th September, Cherian's Facebook account posted a status that said "do not the law lords of the Supreme Court have the courage to face corruption allegations against the High Court?"
"..in the next post, the tirade will be against us, not the High Court", Justice Sundresh said.
"It is very painful for the High Court to come here and make these submissions like an ordinary litigant but the prestige and purity of the institution is at stake," Basant said.
Adv. Sriram Parakkat appearing for Cherian said that his client is in judicial custody and hence the recent Facebook Posts cannot be attributed to him.
"Even while going to the High Court, he wanted his gang to accompany him, so we know what his gang is doing. It's not as if we haven't read the papers. The High Court gave many opportunities, he refused to enter unless his group was allowed to enter. The High Court had every reason to impose restrictions', Justice Bopanna responded.
Parakkat also informed the Court that Cherian is still incarcerated. "Let him be there', Justice Bopanna said. Sr. Adv. Basant added that an application for suspension of sentence had not been filed before the Supreme Court.
The matter has been posted after 2 weeks.
In July this year, the Kerala High Court had sentenced him to four months imprisonment and a imposed a fine of Rs. 2,000 in the suo motu contempt case initiated by it. The contempt case pertains to a speech made by Cherian before farmers, fishermen, and representatives of the local people of Chellanam where he had levelled 'allegations of corruption' against a sitting judge of the High Court. The speech was live streamed and uploaded in the Facebook page of 'V4 Kochi' on October 25, 2022.
The High Court had observed that Cherian had made unsubstantiated allegations merely on the basis of hearsay.
In his plea before the Apex Court, Cherian has argued that the speech was made against the irregularities in the farming operations done by a sitting judge. "..it was within Petitioner‘s right to criticize irregularities and corruption in the conduct of agriculture by the Hon‘ble Justice as would have been the case if this agriculture operation was controlled by a government executive authority" his plea says.
The allegations of corruption was made in good faith and with reasons, his plea states. 'It is of paramount importance to assert that the protection accorded to a judge for judicial work cannot be extended to any executive work that he or she may undertake using the office of the judge as in this matter.’ he has argued in his petition.
Case Title: Nipun Cherian V. Honb’le High Court of Kerala