27 Sep 2023 11:10 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Wednesday (27.09.2023) considered a Special Leave Petition filed by 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 .The Court suggested...
The Supreme Court on Wednesday (27.09.2023) considered a Special Leave Petition filed by 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 .
The Court suggested that a statutory appeal to Supreme Court be filed instead of a Special Leave Petition.
"Since Section 19(1) (b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 provides for an appeal, the counsel for the petitioner seeks leave to convert the same and is permitted to do so", bench of Justice AS Bopanna and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia said in its order.
The matter has been posted to 3rd October for further hearing.
The period of sentence imposed is for 4 months and Cherian has already spent 82 days in custody, his counsel Sreeram Parakkat said. "When I approached the High Court for suspension of sentence, it was clarified that the powers under Cr.PC doesn't apply and I cannot seek suspension of sentence in the High Court under the Contempt of Courts Act", he said. He submitted that he can only seek suspension of sentence before the Supreme Court under Section 19(1)(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
"We can grant leave and convert into an appeal, but need not. When you have a right of appeal, why should you not avail it? You have a better case that way" Justice Bopanna said.
In February this year, on a date fixed for hearing of the contempt in the High Court, Cherian had insisted on entering the court premises with some of his party colleagues. 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".
In the hearing today, the Supreme Court also echoed similar views.
"Even in the contempt proceedings, the manner in which he insisted on entering with his army of people.. there at least he should have shown some repentance..",Justice Bopanna remarked today when the matter came up before the Apex Court.
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 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".
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, SLP(Crl) No. 11431/2023