V4 Kochi president, Nipun Cherian has moved the Supreme Court challenging his conviction for contempt of court as well as the four-month jail sentence imposed on him by the Kerala High Court for posting certain comments against a judge on Facebook. [Nipun Cherian vs Honble High Court of Kerala]
A bench of Justices AS Bopanna and Sudhanshu Dhulia has posted the matter for hearing on October 3.
Cherian was also granted the liberty to convert his special leave petition (SLP) into a statutory appeal under the Contempt of Courts Act.
The bench was hearing an appeal against a Kerala High Court order from July, in which Cherian was held guilty of contempt for leveling corruption allegations against a High Court judge on Facebook.
A suo motu criminal contempt case was soon initiated against him over a Facebook post containing these comments on the page of V4 Kochi, a political organisation-cum-movement based out of Kochi.
The organisation was formed prior to the 2020 Kerala local elections to contest in the Kochi Municipal Corporation. The stated objective of the organisation was to ensure good governance by curbing corruption and implementing people-centric policies.
In July, a High Court division bench of Justices AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Mohammed Nias CP found its president, Cherian guilty of criminal contempt of court.
The High Court had underscored that while fair criticism of courts is acceptable, it cannot remain a mute spectator when an impression is created in the minds of the public that judges of the highest court in the State act on extraneous considerations while deciding cases.
The judges also found that the entire evidence relied on by Cherian to defend his statements was mere hearsay.
Further, Cherian's conduct during the contempt case proceedings was also found to be arrogant by the Court, which opined that he had deserved no leniency.
Therefore, it sentenced Cherian to four months in jail apart from a ₹2,000 fine.
The High Court also that all steps necessary be taken by the police to remove the video containing the offending speech from electronic media platforms.
Cherian's plea before the apex court was filed through advocate Sriram Parakkat.
Cherian contended it was within his legal rights to criticise irregularities and corruption against a judge in control of an agricultural authority. The criticisim was reasoned and in good faith, he asserted.
"The protection accorded to a judge for judicial work cannot be extended to any executive work that he or she may undertake using the office of the judge as in this matter. The Contempt of Court Act 1971, The Judges Protection Act 1985 and any other such laws were enacted for protection of judicial work by judges and these cannot be used to curb citizen rights and legal remedies exercisable by citizens", the plea added.