The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sacked soldier calls judges donkeys in Delhi court

New Delhi, July 26: A man today earned himself a contempt-of-court charge by abusing two Delhi High Court judges as donkeys in a case that has dragged on for nearly a decade.

“Both the judges are gadhas,” former army jawan Ashok Kumar Sharma shouted at Justice Vikramjit Sen and Justice S.L. Bhayana as they heard his petition challenging the army’s decision to sack him.

Sharma was immediately taken out of the courtroom by high court staff.

The ex-soldier had first petitioned a lower Delhi court in 1998. After it dismissed his plea, he had approached the high court where two earlier benches had transferred the case for reasons that are not clear.

“He reacted today because the judges did not appear to understand our arguments,” Satish Mehra, one of Sharma’s lawyers, told The Telegraph.

Initiating contempt proceedings against Sharma, the court noted: “Sharma disturbed the functioning of the court and used derogatory language… scandalising and lowering the authority of the court and also interfering with the administration of justice.”

Contempt of court can be of two kinds, civil and criminal. The first applies to people who do not obey court orders. Criminal contempt, as in Sharma’s case, is brought against those deemed to have “scandalised” the sensitivities of a court or “lowered” its authority.

The punishment is a maximum of six months in jail or a Rs 2,000 fine or both. But the court can let the offender off with an apology, too.

Writer and social activist Arundhati Roy had faced contempt charges after she questioned a Supreme Court judgment ordering the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam to be raised.

Till recently, even “truth” was not an argument against criminal contempt. For instance, someone who alleged that a particular judge was corrupt and had the evidence to prove his allegations in a court would still be open to a charge of contempt.

A newspaper simply reporting today’s incident could also have been charged. Earlier this year, though, the apex court overruled the decades-old order that had held that truth was no defence against contempt.

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