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In Re: Arundhati Roy

Facts
An organisation namely, Narmada Bachao Andolan filed a petition under Article 32 of the
constitution of India in the court. The petitioner was a movement or andolan, whose leaders
and members were concerned about the alleged adverse environmental impact of the
construction of the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir Dam in Gujarat and the far reaching and tragic
consequences of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from their ancestral
homes that would result from the submerging of vast extents of land, to make the reservoir.
During the pendency of the writ petition this court passed various orders. By one of the
orders the court permitted to increase the height of the dam to 85 metres which was resented
to and protest by the writ petitioners and others including the respondent herein. Respondent
Arundhati Roy, who is not a party to the writ proceedings, published an article entitled The
Greater Common Good which was published in the OUTLOOK magazine and in some
portion of a book written by her. Two judges of this court forming the three judge bench felt
that the comments made by her were, prima facie, a hindrance to judicial process and
institution cannot be permitted to be scandalised.
Issues
Whether the article published by Arundhati Roy scandalous and causes contempt of court?
Ratio
The court found Arundhati Roy guilty of the charge of contempt and fined her Rs. 2000 and a
jail term of one day. It said that the article written by her was not bonafide, and hence would
be an hindrance to justice. Later they observed that she deviated from the path of contributing
to literature and art to slandering decisions of the court.
S.P. Khatri v. Madhu Trehan
Facts
A fortnightly magazine called Wah India published an article listing fourteen judges of the
Delhi High Court and evaluated them on parameters of punctuality, knowledge of the law,
integrity, quality of judgments, manners in court, and receptiveness to arguments. The
evaluation was apparently based on a survey that took in the opinions of fifty senior
lawyers. The Delhi High Court issued a notice against the magazines Editor-in-Chief and
directed the Delhi police to ensure that copies of the allegedly offensive issue were
withdrawn from newsstands and the shops that sold it. Copies of the issue that had not been
circulated were thus seized and confiscated. The Court held that prima facie contempt had
been committed by the respondents because the ranking of the judges amounted to
scandalising the judiciary. The Court also refused the apologies that were tendered by the
accused.

Issues
Whether the magazine is in its rights protected under Article19 (1)(a) of free speech?
Whether the article published in the magazine is in contempt of court?
Ratio
1. The court held that the magazine is not within is right and such a publication is misuse
of the powers vested with the press. The court stated that press is the mother of the
nation, but it is acting as a step mother in this case.
2. The court held that such publication is scandalizing the court and is in clear contempt
of the court. The court despite dissent accepted the apology but with a condition that
they must publish an apology in 5 different newspapers in English, failing which will
bring criminal charges.
Subramaniyam Swami v. Arun Shorie
Facts
Justice Kuldip Singh, then a judge of the Supreme Court, was appointed the chairman of a
commission of inquiry to probe into allegations of corruption against Ramakrishna Hegde,
the former Chief Minister of Karnataka. When the commission released its report, it refuted
all the allegations. The Indian Express published an article titled If Shame Had Survived,
criticising the report for being deferential to the Chief Minister and accusing Justice Singh
of inventing theories and probabilities to argue against the allegations. The article also
highlighted how Justice Singh had failed to include the evidence of the key witness in the
case and said that If there had been any sense of honour or shame, a Judge would never have
done any of this. Subramanian Swamy filed a contempt petition against Arun Shourie, who
was the editor of the newspaper, contending that the editorial was a scandalous statement in
respect of a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.
Issues
Whether the article published in Indian Express defamatory and hence in contempt of court?
Ratio
The court held that the article is not defamatory because it stated, what they though in
bonafide was true. Truth is a defence against defamation and hence they are not in contempt
of court. Also, Justice Kuldeep was not acting in judicial capacity and the office he was
holding cannot be called a court, hence, it was not contempt of court.
Rajendra Sail v. Madhya Pradesh High Court Bar Association
Facts
In the murder trial of Shankar Guha Niyogi, the accused were found guilty and sentenced to
prison for life, and one was awarded death sentence. On appeal, the High Court reversed the
trial court judgement and acquitted the accused.

A newspaper called Hitavada published a report where Rajendra Sail called the decision of
the high court as rubbish. It was reportedly said in a rally organised to give their respects to
the deceased Shankar Guha Niyogi.
The HC convicted the Editor, Printer and Publisher, Chief Sub-Editor and Desk In-charge of
the newspaper at Bhilai besides Burea Chief of 'Hitavada' at Bhilai and sentenced them to 6
months prison.
The appeal went to Supreme Court.
Issues
Whether criticizing the judgement of the court protected under free speech, or amounts to
contempt of court?
Ratio
The Supreme Court observed that for rule of law and orderly society, a free responsible press
and an independent judiciary are both indispensable and both have to be, therefore, protected.
The aim and duty of both is to bring out the truth. And it is well known that the truth is often
found in shades of grey. Therefore the role of both can not be but emphasized enough,
especially in a new India, where the public is becoming more aware and sensitive to its
surroundings than ever before. The only way of functioning orderly is to maintain the delicate
balance between the two. The country cannot function without two of the pillars its people
trust the most. The Supreme Court upheld the contempt against them, but modified and
reduced the sentence. The newspaper was allowed to apologise and they were acquitted,
while Rajendra Sails sentence was reduced to one week.
In Re: S. K. Sundaram
Facts
One advocate S. K.Sundaram sent a telegram to the Chief Justice of India stating the he must
resign from his post and must immediately return Rs. 3 Crore to the ex-chequer, as he
strongly beliefs that the Chief Justice of India has lied about his age. He beliefs that the CJI
must be retired by now but is still holding an office due to his lie.
He then went ahead and filed a criminal complaint on the above grounds.
Issues
Whether sending a telegram to the CJI and filing a criminal complaint on strong belief of
fraud on the part of CJI, a ground for criminal contempt of court?
Ratio
The court stated that the letter sent to the CJI was filled with threat and commands and such a
letter would obviously undermine the image and majesty of the courts in India. Also sending
such a letter and filing the complaint, the contemnor is coming in the way of administration
of justice. Thus he is found guilty of criminal contempt of court and was sentenced to six
months in prison, but that was held suspended and if the contemnor commits or attempts to

commit, for 5 years, any other criminal contempt, the suspension will stand null and he will
have to serve six months in prison.