Voicing opinion on pending case criminal contempt: SC

“It has to be borne in mind that any attempt to influence the outcome of the matter pending before the court to prejudice the parties therein may prejudice or interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding but in our opinion, mere filing of the representation and making recommendation thereon in no way prejudices or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding.”

“In our opinion, it is criminal contempt to voice opinion on a case pending in court as that would seem to influence the outcome of the matter and to prejudice the parties therein. However, we hasten to add that fair reporting of court proceedings and fair comments on the legal issues do not amount to contempt,” a bench of Justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad said.

The court gave the ruling while allowing an appeal filed against a decision by a division bench of Karnataka HC initiating suo motu contempt proceedings against writ petitioner H G Rangangoud and K Jayachandra, under secretary, commerce and industries department.

The State government had in 2004 written to the Centre for granting mining lease in favour of Rangangoud for 16.8 hectares in Bellary. However, the Centre had in 2005 returned the proposal and allowed State Trading Corporation (STC) to undertake exploitation of iron ore in the entire specified area.

Rangangoud approached the court which had in 2007 quashed the Centre’s notification issued in favour of the STC. The STC, then, challenged the order before the division bench, which, without passing any interim order, heard the matter and reserved it for pronouncement of judgment.

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