Contempt of court should be used to protect right of people and not to protect dignity of Court against insult or injury: Bombay High Court

23rd Aug, 2021

Contempt of court should be used to protect right of people and not to protect dignity of Court against insult or injury: Bombay High Court

The Court decided that slanderous claims against judges on YouTube and WhatsApp should be treated "with contempt" rather than "in contempt." The Bombay High Court in Goa has held that contempt of court powers should be utilised not to preserve the Court's dignity from insult or harm, but to safeguard and vindicate the rights of people so that the administration of justice is not hindered (Kashinath Shetye v. David Clever & Ors.). As a result, a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Sonak declined to file a contempt of court complaint against a person for allegedly uploading defamatory videos on YouTube and WhatsApp against members of the Goa district judiciary, arguing that our institution's (judiciary's) shoulders are broad enough to shrug off slanderous allegations. "The Court is entrusted with the ability to penalise for its disrespect because it has the obligation of preserving the community's interest in the proper administration of justice." This power is to be used sparingly, not to preserve the Court's dignity from insult or harm, but to defend and vindicate the people's rights so that justice is not distorted, biassed, impeded, or interfered with, according to the ruling. The Court stated that such content should be treated "with disdain" rather than "in contempt," and cited Lord Denning's decision in R.v. Metropolitan Police Commr. Ex-parte Blackburn, in which he refused to be provoked by a critical article written by a lawyer. "Such information, purportedly posted by respondent no.1, is best dealt with contempt rather than in contempt, especially because respondent no.1 has neither cited any specific instances nor lodged any complaints backed by even, prima facie, trustworthy evidence," the High Court stated. The Court was hearing a contempt case filed by Kashinath Shetye against David Clever, who was accused of posting films on YouTube containing false charges against several Goa district court authorities.