Attacks on judiciary could invite contempt of court: Bar Council of India
The Bar Council of India on Thursday deprecated what it called the rising trend of politicians and activists attacking judges and the judiciary even over their oral observations and cautioned that such attacks could invite contempt of court.
The Bar Council pointed out that oral observations had no legal sanctity, unlike written orders. The Bar Council is the regulatory body for legal education and advocates.
The Bar Council struck the note of caution against the backdrop of criticism of recent observations by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, who asked a rape accused whether he was willing to marry the victim. In another case, the CJI had asked: “If two people are married to each other and are living as husband and wife, the husband may be brutal and commit wrong. But can the act of sexual intercourse between lawfully wedded man and wife be called as rape?”
The remarks were widely criticised by a large number of women activists. CPM leader Brinda Karat had said the CJI was being insensitive towards women and sent a letter to Justice Bobde asking him to withdraw the comments.
In a statement, Bar Council chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra said: “In the recent past, we have seen the development of a new trend with regard to the reaction of some people against comments and observations of the Supreme Court judges in the course of judicial proceedings even when such comments are not part of judicial orders. A handful of politicians and some so-called social activists are feeling elevated by criticising and making reckless comments against the judges through the social and print media.
“In our opinion, such attempts are a direct attack on the independence of the judiciary. It has become a fashion for some motivated people to make personal aspersions against our judges. If this trend is allowed to continue, the institution will lose its sanctity. Therefore, immediate measures will have to be taken to stop this practice of malicious attack through the media or otherwise.”
He added: “Freedom of speech and expression cannot be stretched to the extent of maligning and weakening the institution. Writing letters to the Chief Justice of India or any judge and making such letters public through the media are acts of gross contempt of court. We deprecate such actions of Ms Brinda Karat and similar acts of chief minister of Andhra Pradesh (Jagan Mohan Reddy) against the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court.”
Reddy is facing 31 criminal cases related to corruption and money-laundering. Fingers were pointed at the second senior-most judge of the apex court, Justice N.V. Ramana, and suggestions were made that he was trying to influence the functioning of the high courts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
“Comments made by the judges, not resulting in their orders, have no legal sanctity. Why raise a hue and cry on such comments? Unfortunately, in their pursuit of cheap popularity, some people and even some of the media conceal important/relevant facts of the case and the background in which the comment or query was made by the court. We request Ms Brinda Karat and people like her, with great respect, to first examine and get acquainted with the facts of the case in question,” the BCI said.
“Without knowing the full facts, they should not make any reckless comment. Ms Karat should not have made her letter public through the media. This clearly shows that her motive was to get improper political benefit only,” it added.
Mishra said that laws meant for the protection of women were being misused flagrantly and innocent people were being harassed or put behind bars.
“The way and the manner in which some of the media persons start malicious campaign in public make it a matter of serious concern,” he added.