- The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked 17 people for allegedly defaming the Indian judiciary and targeting the judges of Andhra Pradesh High Court as well as the Supreme Court.
- The development comes in the backdrop of a direction made by the Division Bench of Andhra Pradesh High Court, ordering CBI inquiry into cases registered for defamatory remarks against judiciary by YSRCP leaders.
- While expressing displeasure over the investigation by State CID, the high court had directed the CBI to take over the probe into the alleged derogatory comments made by ruling YSR Congress leaders on social media against some judges and against the judiciary as an entity.
- These cases were initially registered by the CID, based on the complaints from Andhra Pradesh High Court Registrar General, against the key personnel, occupying posts of prominence in Andhra Pradesh for intentionally targeting Supreme Court and High Court judges via interviews, posts and speeches and attributing motives and leveling allegations of casteism and corruption, the CBI said in the FIR.
- The CBI was consequently directed on 12 November to investigate the allegations against these 16 individuals.
JAGAN v JUDICIARY
- Representatives of Jagan’s govt say the Andhra High Court has struck down nearly of its 100 orders since the YSR Congress Party came to power last May.
- Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s allegations against senior Supreme Court Justice N.V. Ramana and high court judges aren’t the only legal tangles he and his government are facing.
- On Saturday, this ongoing confrontation took an unprecedented turn when Jagan’s YSR Congress Party government levelled allegations of corruption and bias against Justice Ramana.
- In an explosive letter to Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, which was written on 6 October and made public Saturday, CM Jagan accused Justice Ramana and former CM Naidu of corruption, political bias and trying to topple the government.
CONTEMPT OF COURT IN INDIA
- In India, the offence of contempt of court is committed when a person either disobeys a court order (civil contempt), or when a person says or does anything that scandalizes, prejudices, or interferes with judicial proceedings and the administration of justice (criminal contempt). Contempt of court can be punished with imprisonment or a fine, or both.
- In 2020, lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan was convicted of contempt of court. He had posted a press photograph of the current Chief Justice of India, Sharad Bobde , seated on a motorcycle without a face mask during the Covid-19 pandemic in India, and criticized the judiciary for their selective focus in hearing cases during the lockdown. He declined an offer from the Supreme Court to apologise for these comments.  A challenge to the constitutionality of the Contempt of Courts Act, filed by Bhushan and others, is still pending.
- Article 129 of the Indian Constitution of India states “The Supreme Court of India shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself ”. Superior courts of record have the powers to punish contempts relating to the judges of those courts and the proceedings therein. The principal aim of the jurisdiction is to protect the dignity of the court and the due administration of justice.
- The Contempt of Court Act, 1971 under Section 2(c) defines and limits the powers of certain courts in punishing contempt of courts.
A trend that started by booking Prashanth Bhushan for contempt of court for tweeting, has further taken solid ground with charging these politicians. Do you think this is curtailing freedom of speech and expression?