Supreme Court takes umbrage to General V K Singh's remarks

Supreme Court takes umbrage to General V K Singh's remarks

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would accept criticism, but not brook any comment which scandalises the court.

A bench of justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale slammed former Army chief, General V K Singh, for making remarks against the apex court over his age row. 

“We welcome criticism of the courts’ judgments 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,” the court observed.

The court was taking up contempt proceedings initiated suo motu against Singh and a newspaper for publishing his statement. While the newspaper tendered “an unconditional apology,” a counsel representing Singh sought adjournment on the ground that senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, who was to appear on the former Army chief’s behalf, was held up in another court.

The court said he should not take the case “casually” since a special bench had assembled for hearing the case.

The apex court on October 1 issued notices on Singh and The Indian Express for publishing “a statement intended to lower authority of the court.” 

Singh was present in the court. Attorney General G E Vahanvati produced a compact disc (CD) and transcripts of Singh’s statements, made in English and Hindi. He said the Hindi version was more contemptuous. “The issue was extremely serious. It was completely disruptive of the rule of law,” Vahanvati added.

The bench said: “We can’t allow the court to be scandalised like this. After withdrawing your (Singh’s) petition (on date of birth controversy), you can’t say that judges were under compulsion not to decide. It is striking at the very root (of the judicial system).”
 Vahanvati said he could file draft charges against Singh at the next hearing. The court asked Singh to file a response on the CD and transcripts.

Senior advocate F S Nariman, representing the newspaper, submitted that he was ready to tender “an unconditional apology,” but wanted to present his argument on the extent of freedom of speech and criticism of the court’s judgment.

The court posted the matter for further hearing on November 20. General Singh had filed a writ petition seeking direction to the Centre to treat his date of birth as May 10, 1951, instead of May 10, 1950. 

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