THE PUNJAB and Haryana High Court Wednesday charged a lower court employee with scandalizing the judicial institutions by creating a YouTube channel and uploading videos in which he allegedly leveled false allegations against judicial officers and the high court judges.
The High Court had initiated contempt proceedings against Harmeet Singh in 2013 following a reference from the District and Sessions Judge, Ludhiana with regard to various allegations against him pertaining to his conduct after he was transferred from Ludhiana. The counsel representing the accused, however, argued that the allegations cannot be considered to be a gospel truth and also that he has already been punished for uploading the videos as his four annual increments of pay were stopped in 2018. It was also argued that putting material on YouTube does not amount to “publication” for the public at large because the account is personal and restricted to few acquaintances.
A division bench of Justices Jaswant Singh and Sant Parkash in the order said it would be in the interest of justice if proper charge is framed against the contemnor and opportunity is given to him to substantiate his claim by way of producing evidence.
“The contentions raised on behalf of the respondent-contemnor with regarding to the double jeopardy, the circulation by way of YouTube not amounting to publication and whether it amounted to scandalizing the judicial system are the moot questions which can be answered only after the evidence and submissions of both the parties are evaluated,” reads the order.
Harmeet Singh had joined the Sessions Division in Ludhiana in March 2009 as clerk and was later posted at Jagraon but he allegedly kept on pressuring the judges there to transfer him back. He was transferred to Sessions Division at Mansa later.
A total of five charges have been framed against Harmeet Singh in the order passed Wednesday. The main allegation is of creating a YouTube channel titled “Ugly face of Indian Judiciary” and uploading videos in which false allegations were allegedly levelled against the judicial officers and the public was discouraged from seeking justice from court of law.
The second charge is that he uploaded video clips on social media in connection with his transfer from Ludhiana and tried to lower the dignity of the high court and scandalized “the names of Hon’ble Sitting Judges”. The third charge is of scandalizing the whole judicial institution and attacking the integrity of judges.
“That uploading such videos which scandalize…particularly the names of the Hon’ble Judges of this court do not come under the purview of liberty of free expression. Such unfounded, unwarranted and irresponsible aspersions against the judges or court, which sub-serve the public interest in reasonable measure, is certainly an attack on the Judges’s integrity and is offensive, intimidatory and malicious,” reads the charge.
The fourth charge is of allegedly concocting the stories of corruption, bribery and nepotism in the district judiciary. The final charge against Harmeet Singh is that he uploaded videos on social media and made statements in the media without the previous sanction of the competent authority.
Harmeet Singh earlier in a reply had told the court that a judicial officer had threatened to remove him from service and made “dirty and cheap remarks” about the staff members. He also told the court that he was once detained in court for hours. Regarding uploading of videos, he said that he had sent 100 representations but no response was received and his efforts to meet the then Acting Chief Justice and the District and Sessions Judge also failed.
In response to the charges, he did not plead guilty and claimed trial. The case has been adjourned to September 24 for further consideration.