SC quashes top cop`s conviction for contempt
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Last Updated: Friday, April 15, 2011, 22:41
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday quashed the seven days sentence awarded by Madras High Court to IPS officer and former Chennai Police Commissioner Muthu Karuppan for allegedly filing a false affidavit to prevent Egmore MLA Parithi Ilamvazhuthi from taking oath in the House.

A bench of justice P Sathasivam and HL Gokhale said "law does not permit imposing any punishment in contempt proceedings on mere probabilities. Equally, the court cannot punish the alleged contemnor without any foundation merely on conjectures and surmises."

The bench, however, upheld the conviction and seven-day sentence awarded to Vepery Police Station Inspector Rajendra Kumar for filing the false affidavit against the MLA.

The apex court passed the judgement on the IPS officer's appeal challenging the October 29, 2004, verdict of a division bench of the high court sentencing the top cop along with the Inspector to seven days imprisonment for contempt.

The duo were convicted for contempt on the MLA's petition alleging that he was prevented from taking oath in the Assembly as his bail in connection with a violent incident was cancelled on the basis of a false affidavit filed by the duo in which they had claimed he was still in police custody.

The High Court had cancelled the bail on the basis of the false affidavit.

The MLA alleged the Inspector with the direct knowledge of the Commissioner had filed the false affidavit and committed perjury (misled)of the high court and hence was liable for contempt.

Subsequently, the high court found that the affidavit filed by the Inspector was false and accordingly convicted them.

The apex court, however, on perusal of records found that the Commissioner of Police had no role in the false affidavit filed by Inspector Rajendra Kumar.

"The analysis of affidavits of the Inspector of Police, Assistant Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police show that there is no acceptable material that the affidavit containing wrong information filed by Respondent No. 2 (Kumar) for cancellation of bail and stay of bail order was made at the instance of the Commissioner of Police," the bench said.

Citing a number of its earlier decisions, the apex court said contempt proceedings should be initiated only in exceptional circumstances where the court is of the opinion that perjury has been committed by a party deliberately to have some beneficial order from the court.

"Giving false evidence by filing false affidavit is an evil which must be effectively curbed with a strong hand.

"Prosecution should be ordered when it is considered expedient in the interest of justice to punish the delinquent but there must be a prima facie case of 'deliberate falsehood' on a matter of substance and the court should be satisfied that there is a reasonable foundation for the charge," Justice Sathasivam writing the judgement said.

The bench said there must be grounds of a nature higher than mere surmise or suspicion for initiating such proceedings. There must be distinct evidence of the commission of an offence by such a person as mere suspicion cannot bring home the charge of making false statement.

According to the apex court, contempt proceedings, being quasi criminal in nature, burden and standard of proof is the same as required in criminal cases keeping in mind that the alleged contemnor is entitled to the benefit of doubt.

However, the apex court said the high court has rightly convicted Rajendra Kumar the Inspector for contempt.


First Published: Friday, April 15, 2011, 22:41

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