Himachal Pradesh High Court: Tarlok Singh, J., discharged the contempt notice and accepted the unconditional apology.
The present petition was filed suo motu as a news-item appeared in “Divya Himachal” a vernacular newspaper on 27.08.2021, reporting and commenting with respect to the proceedings of this Court concerning the matters of recruitment to the posts of JOA (IT). The tone and tenor of above noticed news-item prima-facie amounts to interference in the Court proceedings and also in the administration of justice. Thus, a notice was issued to the Editorand Publisher of the vernacular newspaper “Divya Himachal” and also to the Author/Scribe of the news-item dated 27.8.2021 published under the title “JOA post Code 817 bharti par stay” to show cause as to why proceedings under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 be not initiated against them.
The Court observed that an apology for criminal contempt of court must be offered at the earliest since the belated apology hardly shows the “contrition which is the essence of the purging of contempt”. However, even if the apology is not belated but the court finds it to be without real contrition and remorse, and finds that it was merely tendered as a weapon of defence, the Court may refuse to accept it.
The Court also observed that contemnors are truly contrite and have offered the apology at the first available opportunity; therefore, we are inclined to accept the apology and discharge the contempt notice by admonishing the contemnors so that justice is tempered with mercy.
The Court further observed that the Press Council of India has also framed rules, Principles and Ethics by the name of Norms of Journalistic Conduct. Clauses 1, 2, 3, 12 (a), 12 (b) 13 and 16 are relevant for this case.
The Court held “contemnors are truly contrite and have offered the apology at the first available opportunity; therefore, we are inclined to accept the apology and discharge the contempt notice by admonishing the contemnors so that justice is tempered with mercy.”
The Court further held “the unqualified apology tendered by the contemnors oral as well as in written is accepted and the notice of contempt is ordered to be discharged.”
[Court on its Motion v. Editor, 2021 SCC OnLine HP 7563, decided on 04-10-2021]
Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For respondents: Kul Bhushan Khajuria