SUPREME COURT on Wednesday said that its power to punish for contempt under Article 129 is a constitutional power, which cannot be done away with even by any law.
“The power to punish for contempt is a constitutional power vested in this court which cannot be abridged or taken away even by legislative enactment,” said a bench of Justices S K Kaul and M M Sundresh while holding Rajiv Daiya, chairperson of the NGO Suraz India Trust, guilty of contempt of court.
“We are of the view that the contemnor is clearly guilty of contempt of this court. His actions to scandalise the court cannot be countenanced. He continues with his contumacious behaviour. The apologies submitted by him are only endeavours to get out of the consequences again followed by another set of allegations, thus, a charade… There is… no remorse on the part of the contemnor which we find in the present case,” said the bench.
Daiya had on behalf of the trust filed as many as 12 PILs before the apex court. Finding them “thoughtless and frivolous”, the court had earlier asked him to consider giving a voluntary statement that he will not file PILs anymore.
However, he shot off a “disapraging communication” to the residential offices of the judges and “sought to make representations to the President of India and the Prime Minister”. His communication had remarks against the Supreme Court judges and Rajasthan High Court judges.
The apex court eventually imposed exemplary cost of Rs 25 lakh on him on May 1, 2017 and barred him from filing PILs in any court.
Daiya thereafter prayed that he be pardoned and the fine be waived. He also prayed that the judgment be not enforced as he had moved the President seeking sanction for prosecution of the judges.
When this application was dismissed, he again sought permission to tender unconditional apology but also sought consent from the Attorney General to prosecute some of the court officials as well some judges, including the then CJI J S Khehar, for contempt. The AG, however, refused to give consent.
His antics went on for a while at the end of which the court found him guilty of contempt.
On Wednesday, the bench said, “In fact, if Mr. Daiya had just merely expressed his inability to pay the amount as per his affidavit, the matter could have been left at that, with, of course, the natural consequences as contained in the order dated 01.05.2017 which disabled him from filing public interest litigations. After all, there cannot be a birthright to file public interest litigations….”
The court said Daiya appeared to be throwing mud at all in the belief that they would back off. “We refuse to back off and are clear in our view that we must take it to its logical conclusion,” it said.
Dwelling on the importance of contempt, the bench said, “The raison d’etre of contempt jurisdiction is to maintain the dignity of the institution of judicial forums. It is not a vindictive exercise nor are inappropriate statements by themselves capable of lowering the dignity of a judge. These are often ignored but where despite all latitude a perennial litigant seeks to justify his existence by throwing mud at all and sundry, the court has to step in.”
The court asked Daiya to appear before it for the hearing on sentence on October 7.