Advocate General of Tamil Nadu, Vijay Narayan has declined to grant consent to initiate criminal contempt of court proceedings against editor of the Thuglak magazine, S Gurumurthy over certain remarks made by him about High Court judges, during a magazine event in January 2020.
The contempt proceedings were sought to be initiated by Advocate S Doraiswamy, who alleged that in a January 14 speech, Gurumurthy commented that “most of the Judges are dishonest and meritless and obtained the post of the High Court Judge by falling in (sic) the legs of politicians.”
Notice was issued in the matter in January. On Wednesday, AG Narayan concluded that no case for criminal contempt has been made out against Gurumurthy since the statement was made impromptu at a question-and-answer session and a clarification had also been issued by Gurumurthy the next day.
“If one views the statement made by the respondent (Gurumurthy) in its entirely, it would be seen that the statement was made impromptu at a question-and-answer session and the very next day, the respondent issued a clarification which has been referred to above.”
After perusing the speech made by Gurumurthy, AG Narayan opined that Gurumurthy had not intended to denigrate the Court or the Judicial system. Rather, the remarks were aimed at explaining the “systemic flaws and delays in the enquiry, investigation, administrative, executive and legal process,” the AG found.
AG Narayan referred to a counter-affidavit filed by Gurumurthy in the matter, noting that the remarks were made in response to a question by a reader, which has been loosely translated as follows:
“The campaign against corruption paved the way for Modiji’s electoral victory in the year 2014. Will those corrupt politicians in Tamil Nadu be imprisoned at least before 2024?”
This, AG Narayan, said in his order was the context in which the answer was given and it was not Gurumurthy’s intention to denigrate the judicial system in any manner.
“It was in this context that the answer was given and it was never the intention of the respondent to denigrate the court of the judicial system in any manner but the response was meant tot explain the systemic flaws and delays in the enquiry, investigation, administrative, executive and legal process. The responses was meant to highlight the opportunities that arise for the allegedly corrupt persons to utilise the system to drag on proceedings and to obstruct and eventually escape the legal process,” the order said.
The AG further noted that Gurumurthy later expressed regret over the remarks through a statement made on Twitter on January 15, wherein he also stated that he had mentioned “judges” instead of political “candidates”, by accident and in the heat of the moment.
“He published a statement on the platform Twitter in which he stated that having fought corruption as a journalist for decades, his experience has been frustrating with judicial delays and cases like Bofors getting outdated by sheer delay. He has also stated that he faulted the CBI for their investigation in the Maran telephone scam case and in the heat of the moment, he mentioned judges instead of candidates, which was an error for which he regretted. In his statement he has also stated that what happened was unintended and he has always held the judiciary in high esteem,” the AG observed.
The AG, therefore, opined that no case was made out to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against Gurumurthy.
“If the Statement is read in its entirety, it would be seen that there was no intention to either scandalise the court or to interfere with the administration of justice...Though some of the remarks pertaining to the judiciary could have been avoided, the statement taken in its entirety was meant to explain the systemic flaws and delays in the enquiry, investigation, administrative, executive and legal process and it was also based on the personal experience of the respondent in pursing certain cases against politicians… Accordingly, the consent sought for is not granted,” the order stated.
Advocate V Elangovan for the petitioner (S Doraiswamy) whereas Advocate S Ravi appeared for the respondents (Gurumurthy).