The Supreme Court on Tuesday took a serious view of the Kerala High Court sending Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader M.V. Jayarajan leader to jail for contempt without giving him an opportunity to file an appeal, and ordered his release on bail forthwith.
Mr. Jayarajan, who was found guilty of criminal contempt by the High Court for criticising the judiciary, was sentenced to six months' simple imprisonment and a fine of Rs.2,000 on November 8.
Admitting his appeal, a Bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and H.L. Gokhale directed that he be released on bail on his furnishing a personal bond for Rs. 10,000 to the satisfaction of the Registrar-General of the High Court. It asked him to pay the fine within one week, if he had not already done so.
When senior counsel Anil Divan, appearing for Mr. Jayarajan, referred to the judgment using the words ‘worm' and ‘reptile' against the appellant, Justice Lodha observed, “High Court judges could have been more temperate in their language.”
When counsel pointed out that the appellant was taken to jail directly from the court, Justice Lodha said: “Judicial process required that the judgment should have been suspended as a matter of course. [High Court] Judges must not be influenced by anything. He [appellant] is amenable to the judicial process. If the judgment is upheld, he will have to face the sentence, but you can't deny him to right to appeal.”
Senior counsel V. Giri, appearing for the High Court drew the attention of the Bench to Monday's incident in which about 5,000 CPI(M) activists, holding placards, shouted slogans in front of the High Court and obstructed the passage for judges. He said the contempt committed by Mr. Jayarajan was committed by all the cadres.
‘Don't take judgment to streets'
Justice Lodha told Mr. Divan: “Judgments, may be right or wrong, can't be taken to the streets. Nobody is infallible, if you are aggrieved, you can appeal to the higher court. These things should stop, if you [counsel] have any control over it.”
The Bench, while ordering the release of Mr. Jayarajan on bail, directed that the matter be listed for final hearing in July 2012. It also impleaded the State as one of the parties.
In his appeal, Mr. Jayarajan said: “In his speech, he has emphasised that the judiciary is the last resort of the people, even when the executive and the legislature fail. The appellant was only making a fair criticism.”