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SC orders V K Singh to explain ‘serious statements’,begins hearing contempt case

The apex court has pulled up ex-Army chief V K Singh for his comments on its verdict.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi |
October 24, 2013 10:20:19 pm

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it welcomes criticism of its judgements but it cannot brook attribution of motive behind them as it ordered former Army Chief General V K Singh to explain some “serious” statements made by him against the court’s 2012 verdict on his age row. 

A bench of Justice R M Lodha and Justice H L Gokhale took up the suo motu contempt petition against Singh and gave him the final opportunity to adduce his written response to the contempt notice by November 15. 

“We welcome criticism of the courts’ judgements but motives cannot be attributed. It is so very serious. It is not acceptable to us at all…if one makes remarks like this against the highest court of the land,we are heading for bad days,” remarked the bench while fixing November 20 as the next date of the hearing.

“We cannot allow the court to be scandalised like this. It is not permissible. It (statements) is striking at the root of the system,” the bench observed during the proceeding,which have been initiated on the basis of a report published in The Indian Express on September 22,reproducing Singh’s statements to news agency ANI.

In the contempt notice,the bench had mentioned that Singh is said to have issued certain statements to ANI which the court said “prima facie,scandalises or tends to scandalise this court.” 

“It also lowers or tends to lower the authority of this court,which is criminal contempt of court,” the court had said on October 1,and requested Attorney General G E Vahanvati to assist.

As the hearing began on Wednesday,the court expressed its displeasure at the absence of the senior counsel who was supposed to argue for Singh and cautioned him saying: “The Special bench has been constituted only for this matter. Don’t take it casually. We may also ask the contemnor to explain the position if his lawyer is not here. “ 

Singh,who was present in the court,marked his appearance when the bench asked if the contemnor was present.  

Initiating his submissions,Vahanvati said that he had procured the original CD of Singh’s interview from ANI and also got prepared translation and transcript of the interview given in Hindi and English. Vahanvati emphasised on expediting the hearing and added he would soon prepare the draft contempt charges too. 

The AG,who had defended the Centre on Singh’s age row,read out Singh’s controversial statements recorded in Hindi and English and contended that the “design is sinister” and “against the rule of law.” 

About the notice issued to The Indian Express for carrying Singh’s statements,the AG told the court that the newspaper had reproduced “in verbatim” and “without distortion or embellishment” the content of the interview. The bench,after going through the transcript,noted that the report published by the newspaper was an exact reproduction of Singh’s statements and there was no distortion. It,however,said it would hear the newspaper’s arguments over publishing them. 

The court asked the AG to put on record the CD along with transcript and translation within 10 days and supply its copy to Singh’s counsel. 

Appearing for The Indian Express,senior advocate Fali S Nariman told the bench: “We have already tendered our unqualified apology in our written response. However,we would also want to argue on certain broad principles of freedoms of speech and press.” Nariman pointed out that at least six other newspapers had also carried Singh’s contentious statements. 

The bench accepted his submission,saying that aspects like freedom of speech,criticism of judgements and contempt of court required to be balanced and hence,the court would want to hear Nariman on diverse pertinent issues. 

In February last year,Singh had lost his legal battle on the age row in the apex court,which had held that the government’s decision on his date of birth will apply to his service matters,prompting him to withdraw his petition. The court told Singh that he cannot go back on his commitment he made to abide by the government decision to treat his date of birth as May 10,1950 and rejected the contention of “prejudice” and “perversity” against him.

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