The Supreme Court today let off Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar but issued notices to Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy asking her to show cause why contempt proceedings be not initiated against her for imputing motive to the courts in entertaining a petition against her.
Dismissing proceedings initiated on the basis of a petition filed by a group of lawyers seeking action against Patkar, Roy and advocate Prashant Bhushan for raising slogans against judiciary during a dharna outside the court, the apex Court directed notice be issued to Roy asking to show cause why she should not be proceeded against for contempt.
"Roy has imputed motives to specific Courts for entertaining litigations or passing orders against her. She has accused Courts of 'harassing' her as if the judiciary were carrying out a personal vendetta against her," Justice Pal reasoned on the issuance of notice to her.
"We are conscious that Roy has said before us that she stood by the comments made even if they were held to be contumacious," the Bench said but gave her another chance to explain her stand.
The proceedings arose on the petition by few lawyers who alleged that during the dharna by NBA activists before the Supreme Court gate in December last year, the three raised slogans against judiciary and judges of the court.
The activists were protesting against the apex Court's decision in October
last year allowing raising of the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
The Court specified three paragraphs of Roy's affidavit, filed in response to the petition of the lawyers, to be prima facie contemptuous. However, it said Patkar in her affidavit had not ascribed any personal motive to a Judge.
Giving her the benefit of doubt, Justice Pal said "Her comments are general in nature and may be construed as the expression of a perceived error in the decision of superior Courts in their contempt jurisdiction.
The Bench said it was not inclined to direct any further inquiry into the alleged raising of slogans by the respondents during the dharna while pointing out several flaws in the petition filEd by the lawyers.
However, it deprecated the staging of dharna by NBA infront of the Supreme Court. "While holding that a dharna held to protest a decision of a court may not per se amount to contempt, we must not be understood as approving the holding of a dharna before the Court," the Bench said.
"On the other hand it is deprecated and must be discouraged otherwise every disgruntled litigant could adopt this method of ventilating his grievance," it said.
Justice Pal said holding of dharna was either to raise public opinion or to exhibit the extent of public opinion against a decision of a court.
"Judges are required to decide what they think is right according to the law applicable and on the material placed before them and not be swayed by public opinion on any particular issue," she said.
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