SC quashes top cop`s conviction for contempt

The SC quashed the seven days sentence awarded by Madras HC to former Chennai Police Commissioner Muthu Karuppan for allegedly filing a false affidavit to prevent Egmore MLA Parithi Ilamvazhuthi from taking oath in the House.

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

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.


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