Don’t attribute motives to judgment, SC tells V.K.Singh
New Delhi – The Supreme Court Wednesday said it was not averse to criticism, but would not accept motives being attributed to its proceedings and decisions.
“We welcome the criticism of the court. (But) we cannot accept motives being attributed. It is something very serious that cannot be accepted,” the apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice H.L. Gokhale said.
The observation came as the court gave former army chief General (retd) V.K. Singh time until Nov 15 to respond to its suo motu notice for contempt of court, initiated after taking cognizance of an interview the retired General gave to a news channel, alleging that pressure had been brought to bear on judges in the matter of his controversial date of birth.
“We cannot allow the court to be drawn into scandal like this,” Justice Lodha said.
Attorney General Vahanvati said that Gen. V.K.Singh’s comments were “destructive”, and Justice Lodha observed, “It was striking at the root (of the judiciary).”
“You must appreciate the problem,” the apparently displeased Justice Lodha said as Gen. Singh’s counsel requested adjournment of the matter as senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, who was to appear for him in the case, was arguing a matter before another bench of the apex court.
At this, Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati told the court that he too had to appear in the case before another bench of the court, but skipped it to appear in the contempt matter.
“When did you receive the notice?”, the court asked counsel for Gen. Singh, who was present in the court and sought more time to file the response.
Counsel told the court that the notice was received in the first week of October, but paper-book of the case has not yet been received.
He was told all that the paper-book included was the court’s notice and newspaper clippings.
Attorney General Vahanvati placed before the court the transcripts of Gen. Singh’s interviews to the news channel, both in English and Hindi.
Vahanvati told the court that he would frame the charges based on the material before the court as provided under rules of the apex court. Gen. Singh would respond to the charge sheet.
“I will frame the charges,” Vahanvati said.
The court gave 10 days’ time to Vahanvati to place on record the compact disc (CD) containing Gen. Singh’s interview, and to frame charges based on the material. V.K. Singh has been given 10 days’ time to file his response, which is expected by Nov 15.
Senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for a national English daily, said they have offered an unqualified apology, but would like to address the court on the broader principle of balancing the freedom of expression and the court’s power of contempt.
“I am on balancing the freedom of expressing with the court’s power of contempt,” Nariman told the court.
The apex court Oct 1, 2013, issued notice to V.K.Singh asking why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against him for his remarks questioning the apex court’s decision on his date of birth issue, thereby tending to lower its authority.
The matter of the date of birth of the former general created a controversial as it became the basis of arriving at the time of his time of retirement, May 31, 2012, which the general contested.