Madhya Pradesh High Court, Jabalpur Bench
Madhya Pradesh High Court, Jabalpur Bench

Madhya Pradesh High Court convicts 85-year-old law journal editor for contempt of court but lets him off with ₹4,000 fine

The founder and editor of the law journal was found guilty of contempt for making allegations against certain sitting judges of the High Court and commenting about the manner in which certain cases were decided by them.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently held an 85-year-old guilty of criminal contempt of court for making allegations against certain judges of the High Court in articles published in his law journal in 2010. [In Reference (Suo Motu) vs Dr. N.S. Poonia]

The division bench of Chief Justice Ravi Malimath and Justice Vishal Mishra imposed a fine of ₹4,000 on Dr NS Poonia and ordered that in case of failure to pay, he will undergo a simple imprisonment of ten days. 

"He is further warned to remain cautious in future," the Court said further.

The Court said comments made by Poonia were not in the nature of “mere fair and dispassioned critique” of the judgments delivered by the judges but “are couched in intemperate language with use of undesirable expletives”.

It noted that an accusation against Poonia is that he had expressed that a judge deserves to be impeached for his overall performance as “the rights of the public have been demolished and humiliated.” 

Thus, it was a deliberate attempt made by the respondent-contemnor to scandalize the image of the court which clearly falls under the definition of ‘criminal contempt’ under Section 2 (c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971,” the Court said.

Poonia was found guilty not just for the comments made in his publication but also for “contemptuous comments” in the documents filed by him in the contempt case. A separate contempt petition had been registered in 2018 with regard to those documents. 

Poonia, who is the founder, editor and publisher of the journal titled ‘Lost Justice’, is bed-ridden and has paralysis in the right arm and right leg. The Court was also told he has suffered loss of speech due to multiple cerebral strokes. 

The Court had initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against Poonia in 2013 for commenting about the manner in which certain cases were decided by some High Court judges. 

Denying the allegations of contempt, Poonia initially sought reopening of all the cases in the matter; this application was rejected. 

Last month, he withdrew all his pleadings and submitted that an unconditional apology may be accepted considering his age and serious ailments.

While accepting the request, the Court said, “Considered from the totality of the facts and circumstances as narrated above, the age of the respondent-contemnor and his present health condition, we are of the view that it would be just and appropriate to impose a punishment of payment of fine.

Advocate Abhinav Singh Thakur represented the contemnor.

Advocate Ashish Shroti appeared as amicus curiae.

Government Advocate SS Chouhan represented the State.

[Read Judgment]

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