New Delhi: A whistleblower who tries to
highlight malfunctioning of the government "should not be
silenced" even if the speech or editorials appear to invite
contempt of court and truth should ordinarily be allowed as
defence, the Supreme Court ruled today.
"If a speech or article, editorial contains something
which appears to be contemptuous and this Court or the High
Court is called upon to initiate proceedings under the
Contempt of Court Act...
"The truth should ordinarily be allowed as a defence
unless the court finds that it is only a camouflage to escape
the consequences of deliberate or malicious attempt to
scandalise the court or is an interference with the
administration of justice," a Bench comprising Justices G S
Singhvi and A K Ganguly said.
The judgement came three days after the Union Cabinet
approved a Bill to give protection to whistle blowers.
The ruling came on a petition of Indirect Tax
Practitioners Association seeking prosecution of R K Jain,
Editor of Excise Law Times, for writing articles which
allegedly scandalised the functioning of a tax tribunal,
"In our view, a person like the respondent can
appropriately be described as a whistleblower for the system
who has tried to highlight the malfunctioning of an important
institution established for dealing with cases involving
revenue of the state and there is no reason to silence such
person by invoking Articles 129 or 215 of the Constitution or
the provisions of the Act," the Bench said.
The Bench appreciated the editorial which highlighted the
irregularities in the appointment and posting of the member of
CESTAT (Customs Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal) by
rejecting the allegation of lawyers body it was aimed at
scandalising the function of the tribunal.
"Although, the petitioner has tried to project the
editorial as a piece of writing intended to demean CESTAT as
an institution and scandalise its functioning, we do not find
anything in it which can be described as an attempt to lower
the authority of CESTAT or ridicule it in the eyes of the
"Rather, the object of the editorial was to highlight
the irregularities in the appointment, posting and transfer of
the members of CESTAT and instances of the abuse of the quasi-
judicial powers," Justice Singhvi, writing the judgement for
the Bench, said.
The Bench noted that the Association failed to suggest
that the editorial was incorrect or the Editor presented a
distorted version of the facts.
"There is no warrant for discarding the Editor`s
assertion that whatever he has written is based on true facts
and the sole object of writing the editorial was to enable the
concerned authorities to take corrective/remedial measures,"
the Bench observed.