Contempt of court powers, he said, should be used only as a last resort and weapon and should not be used against a layperson criticising courts or judges.
“Judiciary must be open to criticism. Contempt is the last resort and weapon. This is my opinion. Because precious judicial time is wasted on contempt hearings and important matters and question of law cannot get heard,” Justice Shinde said.
The remarks were made in the context of arguments advanced by advocate Dr. Abhinav Chandrachud on freedom of speech and expression.
The Bench which also comprised Justice MS Karnik was hearing a plea by Sunaina Holey, accused of passing objectionable comments against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Cabinet Minister Aaditya Thackeray.
Dr. Chandrachud, representing Holey, was arguing on the importance of freedom of speech to express opinions against government officials, when the Bench opined that that individuals occupying positions of power must learn to tolerate criticism.
Extending the same yardstick to the judiciary, Justice Shinde said that courts should also learn to take critical opinions and statements against it.
He pointed out how the parliament has exclusive power to impeach a judge should they want to take an action against the judge.
However, if someone from the society makes a comment criticising a judge, then such criticism should be allowed, he added.
Judiciary must be open to criticism. Contempt is the last resort and weapon. Because precious judicial time is wasted on contempt hearings and important matters and question of law cannot get heard.
Justice SS Shinde
Chandrachud chimed in that people against whom action is taken get more attention than they would get otherwise. He gave an example of action being initiated against a comedian for statements which would have otherwise gone unnoticed, a veiled reference to stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra against whom contempt of court is pending before Supreme Court.