File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Case commentary on Leila David v/s State of Maharashtra (2009) 10 SCC 337

Leila David v/s State Of Maharastra[1]

Factual MatrixThe petitioner and three others filed a writ of mandamus against twelve sitting judges of the High Court of Bombay, requesting that criminal proceedings and severe punishment be instigated. In March, the petition was listed and heard before the Divisional Bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice A.K. Ganguly. During the proceedings, one of the petitioners threw a chappal at the Judges and began to utter abusive language, thereby condescending and disrupting with the court's proceedings and was found in contempt of court in front of the Supreme Court.

When the petitioners were asked to retract their claims, they refused and continued to argue that they stand by their claims, pleading with the court to order the arrest of the twelve Bombay High Court judges. One of the petitioners, Ms. Annette Kotian, was repeatedly warned to control her language and her aggressive behaviour, but she persisted in using abusive and derogatory words and vehemently argued that she was entitled to protection under Article 21 of the Constitution and that she would continue to do so.

Hon. Justice Pasayat heard the contempt case the same day and sentenced the violators to three months of simple imprisonment, but Justice A.K. Ganguly disagreed. The Chief Justice convened a three-judge bench to hear the case after the matter was brought before him.

Substantial Question Of Law/ Issues Before The CourtT
  1. What constitutes contempt of court?
  2. Whether summary jurisdiction is maintainable?
  3. Whether the right to free expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution is an absolute right, and whether the right to protect oneself is also enshrined in Article 21?
  4. Whether the petition's procedural flaws and the language used, vandalising the court and the offices of the President, Prime Minister, and Attorney General, are grounds for contempt under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971?

Arguments By The Parties:
  1. The petitioner claimed that they had the right to speak out and use such languages as they have the freedom of speech and right to free speech enshrined under Article 19 of the constitution.
  2. Furthermore, they also claimed that, it would not amount to contempt, as they have Right to Life enshrined under Article 21 and initiating summary proceedings was violative of this fundamental right.

The Kind Of Interpretation That Was Put Forth By The Court

Issue 1: In the present case, the court determined that throwing a chappal at the judges amounted to contempt of court because it dishonoured the supreme legal authority. Section 2 of the Contempt Of Courts Act, 1971 in India contains clause (c), which defines contempt of court.

Criminal contempt is defined as the publication of information or the performance of any other act that denigrates, undermines, or tends to denigrate the authority of any court, prejudices, interferes, or tends to interfere with the proper conduct of any judicial proceedings, or interferes, tends to interfere, obstructs, or tends to obstruct the administration of justice in any other way.

Issue 2: The Indian Constitution makes specific provision for High Courts and the Supreme Court to be recognised as Courts of Record under Article 215 and under Article 219.The summary procedure is justified on the grounds that a speedy method of determining the contempt sentence is required to instil trust in the administration of justice among the general public. It is essential for the upkeep of peace and order in society that the public has faith in the legal system.

Issue 3: The limitations on this freedom as stated in Article 19(2) include the citizen's liability under the present law of contempt as well as any additional fair limitations on the freedom in future legislation in the aim of avoiding judicial contempt. The reasonable restriction envisaged by Section 4 (of the 1971 Act) on the extent of reporting on a judicial action influences the fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression. And, they are subjected to the restrictions imposed in Section 4 of the Act.

Judicial Interpretations That Deduced The Verdict (With Other Significant Referred Cases)

In the case of Delhi Judicial Services Association v. State of Gujarat and Others,[2] the Supreme Court observed that criminal contempt is wide enough to include any act of a person which is likely to interfere with the administration of justice which would lower the authority of court. In the case of re P.C. Sen,[3] the Supreme Court has again taken a view that, the question of whether the contemnor had the intention to interfere with the administration of justice or had the intention to cause such contempt was irrelevant in deciding a case of criminal contempt.

In the case of Vinay Chandra Mishra[4], the Supreme Court has observed that summary jurisdiction is valid in exceptional cases, especially in cases where the contempt is against the highest authority of law of a country. The threat of criminal contempt is the immediate action against the offence and hence prolonged trial would mean prolonged contempt. Therefore, time factor was held to be crucial. In the landmark Ramanarao case,5 The Law of Contempt of Court it is not violative of Article 19(1)(a). It seeks to bring a balance between visual freedom of speech and expression and necessity for healthy social over the individual freedom. The very fact that the contempt jurisdiction as given to High Court is sufficient to establish that it is a valid law.

Verdict Of The Case:
Though Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 lays down a procedure that should be followed in cases of criminal contempt, it does not however, prevent the courts from taking an alternative to instant proceedings when a conscious , deliberate and ill-will act takes place in an open court.

Hence, the writ petitions filed by Leila David, Ms. Anette Kotian and Ms. Pavithra Murali was dismissed with a cost of Rs. 1 lakh in respect of each of the writ petition filed. The contemnors were also sentenced for three months simple imprisonment .

My Own Critical Comments On The Case:
In my opinion, the High Court has rightly administered summary jurisdiction. However, in cases of a Suo moto cognizance, the parties identified as contemnors should have been given an equal opportunity to represent themselves although the court might be of the view that there wouldn't be a justification for the act committed by them. Such a denial of right to represent their case, that too in a Suo moto, amounts to the court refusing a person the right of natural justice. It may not have been expressly incorporated in our law, yet, Indian Judiciary has always recognised it as a natural right.

Right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) is subject to certain limitations, which is necessary for preserving the individual freedom and social order. Hence, when a person acts in contravention of the limitations set out by the Article, it would infringe on the fundamental rights guaranteed to other persons.

To conclude, I stand by the Hon' Supreme Court's verdict in holding the parties in criminal contempt as they have public humiliated the court and have interfered with the administration of justice. Thus, I support the verdict of the case, yet, I disagree with the procedure adopted by the court in arriving at this verdict.

  • AIR (2009) 10 SCC 337
  • Delhi Judicial Services Association v. State of Gujarat & Others, (1991) 4 SCC 406, at p. 456.
  • AIR 1970 SC 1821
  • 4 AIR 1995 SC 2348, at p. 2361
  • Ibid.

  • Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Tejaswini S
    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: JU315608129723-5-0623

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly