Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Contempt of court or contemptuous court?


Somebody ought to call the Guinness Book people and tell them about M V Jayarajan. Only once in a blue moon does the court punish anybody in a contempt of court case. When it does, the sentence usually ends in a prison term till the court adjourns or for a day at the most. It is only natural that an orator, in a moment of emotion, may utter something stupid- it is only human. You cannot edit or rewrite an impromptu speech. In such cases one might say something, which he wouldn't have uttered in other occasions. Usually people get away with an apology or retraction, that's the practice.

Jayarajan didn't apologize; instead he tried to teach the court some Sanskrit, which didn't work. His lawyer even argued that Jayarajan had only tried to describe the judge as a luminary. Luckily for this advocate, there are no clauses in the penal code to punish a lawyer for attempting to mislead the court.

Anyway, Jayarajan earned the distinction of being the first political leader to get six months prison term in a contempt case – Guinness people should enter this in highlighted text. If there are any contenders they should come forward with prison certificates. Many years back comrade EMS too was punished for the same offence. The court fined him one rupee. This time it is Rs 2500! The amount is not a problem, even a million bucks is chicken feed for his party, but six months in prison! It is cruel.

Has anybody been convicted for this kind of offence anywhere – not in India, but anywhere in the world? Legal luminary AG Noorani says it's been 70 years since Britain convicted the last offender. It's not because of a dearth of MVJs in the UK. Where in the world can you spot a place without any Jayarajans? There are thousands. The problem is that neither the courts nor the media bother about them; courts function with an attitude of letting the dogs bark as the caravan goes. In many states in USA there is not even a law to punish contempt. They are content with punishing those who disobey the court. Could be that there are not many abuses in American vocabulary that could shock the judiciary.
Anyway, Jail Rajan got his big break in politics. Reports reveal that he has become a hero of sorts. His rath yathra from the court to central jail was greeted with flashy receptions in many places. His yatra was telecast live in TV channels. Wouldn't it inspire many copycats - who wouldn't be inspired if you get this kind coverage in a contempt case?
Putting leaders like him behind bars for six months will not work. How about banning the media from publishing the offender's name and photo for six months? This will work, no doubt.

CPI (M) is on a warpath against the court and its contempt judgement. Wouldn't it amount to a bigger contempt than calling a judge useless? If you don't like a government decision you can agitate -governments can negotiate with agitators and amend laws or policies – but there is no provision to negotiate or amend a judgement. If you don't like the judgement, you can approach higher courts, period. Even when the top gun of the party EMS was punished there were no such agitations.
But if you think on such lines, you won't be able to organize even a district-level hartal ! Only idiots would ignore golden opportunities landing on their laps.
Party secretary Pinarayi says Jayarajan was jailed because he opposed the move to ban roadside meetings and not for abusing judges in public. Of course, there is a point in what he said. High Court is an organ that behaves with decency and restraint. Naturally, refrain and decency aren't for political leaders. Party's grouse might be that the court too had sunk to the level of Jayarajan while sentencing him. The court should never have done that. And the word 'simple' imprisonment becoming 'rigorous' imprisonment could not be taken as a typographical error – may be it is feelings of the court peeking out inadvertently (anyway, they corrected it afterwards). Why didn't the court reserve the punishment till the appeal decision? At many places in the judgment, court reiterates the point that the accused guy doesn't have any sense at all. It even went to the extend of calling him a worm. The left's legal luminaries can check if there's a provision to file a defamation suit against the court.

Constitution has not directed any high power legal experts to frame laws, it is done by people like Jayarajan. Even the constitution was drawn up by a group of Jayarajans of different hues and shades. Even the judiciary enjoys the power granted by it. Why, even the contempt laws were created by those Jayarajans. People ignorant of laws received the same importance as the lawyers. What to do, it is a democracy, your honour.