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The State Of Bihar vs Shailabala Devi on 26 May, 1952
The Press Council Act, 1978

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Patna High Court
The Legal Remembrancer vs Atul Chandra Ghose And Anr. on 1 September, 1954
Equivalent citations: AIR 1955 Pat 135, 1955 CriLJ 520
Author: Jamuar
Bench: Jamuar, Misra

JUDGMENT

Jamuar, J.

1. There is a rule issued on the application of the Legal Remembrancer representing the State of Bihar against the opposite party calling upon them to show cause why a proceeding in contempt of Court should not be drawn up against them. Opposite party No. 1, Shri Atul Chandra Ghosh, is the editor of a weekly newspaper or a pamphlet called "Mukti" issued in Bengali from Purulia, and opposite party No. 2, Shri Jagabandhu Bhattacharjee, is the printer and publisher of that paper. The rule is in respect of an editorial headed "Desh Sevar Puraskar" published in the issue of the said paper dated 7-9-1953.

2. The editorial in question came to be written and published in the following circumstances. Last year, there was a proceeding under Section 144, Criminal P.C. before a Sub-divisional Magistrate, and an article appeared in the paper "Mukti" in respect of this proceeding in its issue dated 28-1-1953. The matter was brought to the notice of the High Court at the instance of the Legal Remembrancer of the State of Bihar, and this Court issued a rule upon the then editor of the paper, who was Shri Bibhuti Bhusan Das Gupta, the then printer and publisher, who was Shri Ram Chandra Adhikari, and the writer of the article, who was Shri Arun Chandra Ghosh. The case was numbered as Original Criminal Misc. Case No. 8 of 1953 (A), and judgment was delivered on 1-9-1953, 'Legal Remembrancer, Bihar v. Bibhuti Bhushan', AIR 1954 Pat 203 (A), convicting those three men and sentencing them to pay certain fines, and, in default, to undergo three months' simple imprisonment. The convicted men refused to pay the fines, and courted imprisonment. Accordingly, they were sent to prison. On the same date, an oral application was made for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against that judgment and order, and the application was rejected. There was then an application filed in the Supreme Court for special leave to appeal; but that application was also rejected with a modification in the sentence imposed in default of payment of the fines.

3. The editorial, which is the subject-matter of the present proceeding, bore the caption, as I have already said, "Desh Sevar Puraskar", and it commented upon the case which was decided by this Court on 1-9-1953, in -- 'Original Criminal Misc. Case No. 8 of 1953 (Pat) (A)', and the present rule was issued at the instance, again, of the Legal Remembrancer of Bihar. The learned Standing Counsel, who has appeared in support of this rule, has contended that the editorial in question clearly imputes motives on the part of the High Court in pending the opposite party in the previous case to Jail and it further alleges that the High Court, in coming to its decision, had taken extraneous matters into consideration. It was, therefore argued that the editorial tended to bring the authority of the High Court into contempt. It was further argued that the aforesaid editorial attributes improper motives to the Judges of this Court and not only it transgresses the limits of fair and 'bona fide' criticism but has a clear tendency to affect the dignity and prestige of the Court, and, therefore, amounts to a gross contempt of this Court.

4. The opposite party have filed an affidavit in reply. It Is submitted by them that there is

no criticism or comment upon the judgment of the High Court in that editorial, that no motive has been imputed therein to the Judges of this Court, and that any reference to the judgment or order of this Court was merely incidental. It is further stated that the opposite party never intended, nor did they desire, in writing and publishing the editorial in question, in any manner to comment upon or criticise the judgment of this Court that the entire editorial is a criticism of the policy of the State Government in having initiated the contempt proceedings and in dealing with the accused in an unfair manner, and that in writing and publishing the editorial, the opposite party had no intention to make any reflection upon this Court, and that, in fact, the editorial does not tend to affect the dignity and prestige of the Court in any way.

5. The decision in this case must, of necessity, depend upon a fair reading of the editorial in question. The editorial was published in the Bengali language; but we have the advantage ,of having an English translation of the same before us. When reading the editorial, the contention put forward on behalf of the opposite party that the editorial was a criticism, though a severe one, of the actions of the State Government and not of the High Court at all has to borne in mind.

6. There can be no two opinions that the editorial starts with a criticism of the state Government in having made an application to the High Court in -- 'Original Criminal Misc. Case No. 8 of 1953 (Pat) (A)', to proceed against the opposite party in that case for contempt through its Legal Remembrancer. It commences by drawing attention to the fact that the Legal Remembrancer to the Government of Bihar had filed an application in the Patna High Court in respect of the article which had appeared in the paper on 26-1-1953, regarding the promulgation of an order under Section 144, Criminal P. C., at Bundwa. It then states that the opposite party to that application had been sentenced to pay fines, and, in default, to undergo simple imprisonment, and that the convicts courted imprisonment instead of paying the fines, and were, accordingly, taken to the Bankipore Jail where they were treated as class I prisoners. No objection is taken to this paragraph by the learned Standing Counsel.

7. The next paragraph, as translated, reads as

follows:

"It is an ordinary event among the affairs of the State. But to the public of Manbhum it is a grave and heart-rending historic event. Each of the convicts is a devoted servant of the country. During the foreign rule, similar events have occurred many times. These workers, having shouldered the responsibility of a newspaper, have gladly tolerated similar oppressions from the then Government. The leaders of our country, who have now taken the responsibility of administration of the State, had condemned such actions of the then Government."

To this paragraph also, no objection is taken. It

is clearly directed against the Government, and

has nothing to do with this Court.

8. The next paragraph states that, six months

after "the occurrence", by which is meant the date of the publication of the article which was 26-1-1953, the Legal Remembrancer to the Government of Bihar felt that the paper "Mukti" had done something and herein the writer of that editorial indulges in a great deal of euphemism, and there was some difficulty in rendering it into English; but, as no serious objection was taken to this part of the editorial, it is of no great consequence. What the writer meant was, I think, that the paper "Mukti" had brought the affairs of Bundwa before the eyes of the public. The writer then indulges in language which he may have thought to be poetic or semi-peotic. He says: "The 'handi' (earthen pot) had been broken in a winter night. Thereafter, the vernal breeze, the summer heat and the storms of the dreadful "Baisakh" have passed. The Departmental authorities had not so far noticed that the store of their dignity had been lying bare. It might be dissolved by the rain-water; hence it became necessary to make the accused persons stand on the dock in the High Court."

This sort of thing is difficult to understanding; but we were told that it meant that, as the article had appeared in the month of January, "the handi had been broken in the winter night", and, thereafter, since the application to the High Court was made by the State through the Legal Remembrancer in June, 1953, "the vernal breeze, the summer heat and the storms of the dreadful Baisakh have passed", and "the Departmental authorities had not so far noticed that the store Of their dignity had been lying bare"; and, since the store of the dignity "might be dissolved by the rain-water", that is to say, by the time that the rainy season comes, "it became necessary to make the accused persons stand on the dock in the High Court" by making the application which it did to the High Court.

9. Still the editorial has nothing to do with the judgment of the High Court in -- 'Original Criminal Misc. Case No. 8 of 1953 (Pat) (A)'. (10) The learned Standing Counsel has taken serious objection to the nest line appearing in this editorial. This line, as translated is as follows: "The High Court put these patriots into prison for three months by way of avenging the contempt of Court (by them)."

11. Objection was taken to the word "avenging" Mr. Sasanta Chandra Ghose, who has appeared for the opposite party, contended that this is clearly a mistranslation of the Bengali word "pratisodh". He contended, in the context in which this word has been used in that sentence, it does not mean "avenging" but it means "recompensing". We had the original Bengali sentence read to us several times, and, after the comments which have been made upon the word by Counsel, we think that that word in that context, in effect, means "vindicating the offended dignity of the Court", and I feel satisfied that that word was not used in that context in any bad or contemptuous sense.

12. The subsequent sentences, according to the learned Standing Counsel, impute motives to the High Court. These sentences are: "Hungry Manbhum is astounded at this event today. They are led to think in grief as to what is this preparation for? Is it a preparation to put a stop to the publication of the speeches of twentytwo lacs of mouths of hungry, Manbhum, dumb and afflicted with starvation, Which (publication) was made before the world by those who are above the narrow range of self-consciousness, having nothing to be called their own? Or is this farce meant for applying necessary ointment and bandage upon Manbhum, bruised by the controversies of language? Or does this preparation aim at obtaining an ex parte decree from the impending Boundary Commission?"

I do not think that any of these sentences refers to the judgment of the High Court. I cannot take these sentences to mean that the judgment of the High Court amounted to a preparation to put a stop to the publication of the speeches of twentytwo lacs of mouths of hungry Manbhum or that it amounted to applying necessary, ointment and bandage upon Manbhum bruised by the controversies of language, nor did it amount to a preparation at obtaining an ex parte decree from the impending Boundary Commission. I am of the opinion that all this was aimed at the action of the State Government in having moved the High Court to draw up a proceeding against the then editor and the printer and publisher of this paper issued from Manbhum.

13. The very next sentence is: "What has happened could come to pass before or after a couple of months." It is explained that the controversy ranging over language was, at the time of making the application in the High Court, at its height, and that the visit of the Boundary Commission was considered to be an immediate event. The suggestion, accordingly, was that the State Government had taken action against the editor and the printer and publisher of the paper in order to prevent them from taking part either in the controversy of language or in submitting a memorandum to the Boundary Commission.

14. The learned Standing Counsel then took objection to the next sentence. The sentence, as translated, is as follows: "It can be easily guessed that there is particular purpose behind the disposal of the case within

two weeks without allowing leave to appeal." We thought, at the first sight of the sentence, that this was clearly an attack upon the High Court. It was, however, discovered that the translator was not correct in translating the original. In the original Bengali, it seems to suggest that an opportunity was not given to the convicted men to prefer an appeal. But there is no question of giving an opportunity, as, on the very date of delivery of the judgment, an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was moved orally, and it was rejected, and thereafter an application for special leave to appeal was, in fact filed in the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, that case was not disposed of within two weeks at all. The application was filed

in the High Court on 3-6-1953; it was moved and admitted on 4-6-1953; it was heard on two dates,

namely, the 19th and the 20th August, 1953; and judgment was delivered on 1-9-1953. In my opinion, here again, the reference is not to the High Court but to the State Government, and it seems to have been suggested that the state Government was in a hurry in having the case disposed of in such a short time. Reading the sentence in the context of what has preceded it, I do not think that the argument advanced on behalf of the opposite party that no attack upon the High Court was meant but that it was a criticism of the action of the State Government can be rejected.

15. The lines immediately following the line quoted above also lead to the same conclusion, for these lines refer to the State Government. They are as follows:

"All the three convicts are the dwellers of an 'ashram' living on alms. Even the British Government realised as to how distressing it was to impose fines on them. But how could the national Government administered by their previous friends not realise it? Perhaps some particular motive has served as a hindrance to their way of understanding."

The last paragraph in the editorial is as follows:

"It is a matter of joy that the comrades have followed the path of 'Satyagrahis'. However, it is true that the path of a 'Satyagrahi' is so uneven. The course adopted by Bibhuti Babu, Arun Babu and Ramchandra Babu (Phatik Babu) in the matter of their trial is an ideal one for the true servants of the people and this is the directive of Mahatmaji and Rishi (sage) Nibaranchandra. Although this punishment is painful to the people of Manbhum the servants of the people should take it as a reward for service to country under the national Government."

16. Reading the editorial as a whole, I am not prepared to conclude that it imputes motives on the part of the High Court in either imposing fines upon the opposite party in -- 'Original Criminal Misc. Case No. 8 of 1953 (Pat) (A)', or, in the circumstances sending them to jail. I do not think that the editorial in any way, tends to bring the authority of the High Court into con-tempt. My own view is that the editorial is not of a well-educated man who can be said to have given serious thought over what he was writing. He has not expressed his thoughts in a systematic way, and he does not seem to be well familiar with the functions of the executive and the judiciary. The language does not expressly lead to the inference that the editorial was either meant or it tended to bring down the reputation and dignity of this Court in the eyes of the public.

17. The learned Standing Counsel relied upon the case of.-- 'Emperor v. Marmaduke Pickthall, AIR 1923 Bom 8 (B). But that is a case very different from the present one. In that case it was found: "The article ends with a clear implication that the Judges were influenced by the consideration of exceptional times, not of course expressly urged by the prosecution but impliedly taken into consideration by the Court and they upheld the conviction on the evidence which according to the writer ought never to be accept-ed as sufficient. The article as a whole would leave on the mind of an ordinary reader the clear impression that injustice had been deliberately done on political grounds to some of the accused who were apparently innocent. In other words it attributes Judicial dishonesty to the Judges. I am unable to accept the contention that such an article does not constitute a contempt of Court. We have to consider the natural and probable effect of the article and not only the avowed intention of the editor as indicated in his affidavit. I think that the publication of the article in question constitutes a contempt of court."

18. Where such be the effect produced by an article, there can be no manner of doubt that it would amount to a contempt of Court. In the case before us, I do not think it can be said that the reader of the editorial would gain the impression that injustice had been deliberately done on extraneous considerations. The editorial does not, in my view, attribute judicial dishonesty to the Judges.

19. Too much importance need not be given to this editorial. I would quote certain remarks made by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in the case of the -- 'State of Bihar v. Shailabala Devi', AIR 1952 SC 329 (C). Though that case, in which the observations are to be found was not one of contempt, the case having been under the Press (Emergency Powers) Act (23 of 1931), nevertheless, they furnish a valuable guide in dealing with such matters as are before us in present case.

Mahajan J. (as he then was) said:

"It seems to me that the learned Judges of the High Court took this writing too seriously. It did not deserve that consideration. It is some ' kind of patch-up work, with no consistency or cohesion between its different parts. Portions of it are unmeaning nonsense and in other parts it talks of revolution in the abstract..... the pamphlet contains merely empty slogans carrying no particular meaning except some amount of figurative expression or language borrowed at random from various authors with a touch of poetic flourish about it. Writings" of this character at the present moment and in the present background of our country neither excite nor have the tendency to excite any person from among the class which is likely to read a pamphlet of this nature. They will necessarily be educated people. Such writings leave their readers cold and nobody takes them seriously. People laugh and scoff at such stuff as they have become too familiar with it and such writings have lost all sting."

20. Respectfully, I would adopt these remarks and apply them to the editorial now under consideration. An important test is whether, having regard to the nature and extent of the publication, the editorial in question was or was not likely to leave an injurious effect on the minds of the public or of the Judiciary itself and thereby

lead to interference with the administration of

justice. It cannot be so found in the present!

case.

21. In this view of the matter, I do not think it at all to be in the interest of the administration of justice to proceed in this matter any further.

22. I would, accordingly, discharge the rule.

Misra, J.

23. I concur in the conclusion of my learned

brother that the writing in question does not

constitute contempt of Court. The worst that

can be said of the editorial is, that it contains,

a severe and highly emotional comment upon

the policy of the Government of Bihar, although

the occasion chosen for the purpose, is the

judgment of the High Court which, in the context, is highly indiscreet and not based even on

the facts of the case, as shown in the judgment

of my learned brother. The writer is ill-informed

about the procedure of this Court. Since, however, the editorial does not tend to lower the

dignity of this Court, the rule must be discharged.