The Madras High Court on Thursday convicted a well-known Youtuber, A Sankar alias 'Savukku' Sankar, for criminal contempt and sentenced him to six months' imprisonment.
The case was taken on its own against Sankar by the court.
The bench of Judges GR Swaminathan and B Pugalendhi had called upon Sankar to explain as to why he should not be held guilty of "scandalizing the judiciary" by levelling corruption charges against it.
In the previous hearing he had not expressed regret or remorse and had admitted to making such statements, the court pointed out.
"It is to be noted that the contemnor admitted having made all the charged statements. It does not require a forensic mind to conclude that they are ex-facie scandalous. They denigrate and deride the institution of judiciary. The legal maxim "res ipsa loquitor" (the thing speaks for itself) can be analogically applied," the bench said.
Sankar's statement that the entire higher judiciary is riddled with corruption was the subject matter of the show cause notice.
"The contemnor would be well within his rights to highlight specific instances of corruption. Of course, they must be backed by materials. He cannot tar the entire institution with a single brush. That would be crossing the lakshman rekha by a long shot."
It is criminal contempt of the highest degree to portray the entire institution of higher judiciary as corrupt. The contemnor by proclaiming in the public domain that all Judges are corrupt and dishonest is clearly guilty of criminal contempt, the judges said.
They also rejected his defence of "over-representation" of Brahmins in judiciary while talking about three judges and said the Supreme Court is the ultimate judicial institution of the country.
Its judgments constitute the law of the land. The contribution of the Apex Court is unparalleled. All its Judges are entitled to the highest respect, the court noted.
"The conduct of the contemnor (Sankar) deserves to be noted. Nowhere he expressed his regret or remorse. He did not offer any apology at all. On the other hand, he asserted that he was justified in making the charged statements. A reading of the charged statements would lead anyone to the conclusion that they are likely to lower the prestige and dignity of courts and judges. We, therefore, hold that the contemnor is guilty of criminal contempt," the bench said.
On the sentencing, the court said it would have closed the proceedings if Sankar had realised his mistake and sincerely apologised.
"Far from doing so, the contemnor stuck to his position...the contemnor is a suspended employee of the State Government. He is receiving subsistence allowance for the last thirteen years. He is governed by the Conduct Rules.
Yet, he has been attacking all the three organs of the State in a vicious manner. He is already facing criminal contempt proceedings. Yet, he has made the offending statements. The contemnor has reiterated his resolve to continue his attack on judiciary. He has gone to the extent of stating that he can be sentenced only to a maximum of six months..", it said.
The court said Justice V R Krishna Iyer stated that "Justice fails when Judges quail."
"We do not propose to quail. There are occasions when Judges have to be firm and stern. Shrugging off such provocations by stating that we possess broad shoulders would be seen as a sign of weakness."
"The contemnor has shown himself to be an unrepentant character. Bearing in mind the principles set out by the Hon'ble Division Bench in the decision reported in (2016) 2 CTC 113 (W.Peter Ramesh Kumar), we sentence the contemnor to six months simple imprisonment. He shall be taken to custody forthwith and lodged in
Central Prison, Madurai," the bench ordered.
The respondents were social media giants Twitter and Facebook, Google and Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.