SC extends stay on ex-IPS officer’s sentence on Dhoni’s contempt plea


PTI, Apr 12, 2024, 5:34 PM IST

Representative image (source: PTI)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has extended the interim stay on the 15-day simple imprisonment handed to retired IPS officer G Sampath Kumar by the Madras High Court in a contempt of court case filed by former cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

A bench of Justices A S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan has listed the matter for hearing on May 3.

”Interim order shall continue till further orders,” the bench said on Thursday.

The high court had, on December 15 last year, found Kumar guilty of committing criminal contempt and sentenced him to simple imprisonment for 15 days.

In his contempt petition, Dhoni had sought punishment for Kumar for his remarks against the judiciary in a written statement filed in response to a Rs 100-crore defamation suit.

Dhoni had moved the court in 2014 against the former police officer for naming him in the Indian Premier League (IPL) betting scam.

In its order, the high court had said Kumar had consciously made an attempt to scandalise and lower the authority of this court and the Supreme Court. It was established that an affidavit or pleading presented by a party before a court was an act of publication.

Kumar, by his specific words, had launched an indecent attack on the judiciary, with an intention to scandalise and undermine the dignity and majesty of this court as well as the apex court, the high court had said.

It had said when a general statement was made against the court for granting an interim order, describing the order as an abuse of the process of law, it was not a fair comment. Similarly, accusing the Supreme Court that it failed to focus on the ”rule of law” cannot be accepted as a fair expression of grievance of a party to the dispute, the bench had added.

The high court had said Kumar was a responsible police officer who had the occasion to investigate a crime.

The freedom of speech and expression cannot be extended to undermine the statutory limits contained in the Contempt of Courts Act, the court had said, adding that since maintaining the dignity of courts is one of the cardinal principles of the rule of law, any publication or public speech that results in undermining it cannot be allowed, as held by the apex court in several precedents.

The high court had said the Contempt of Courts Act was enacted to secure public respect and confidence in the judiciary as an institution.

”If persons like Sampath Kumar were allowed to shake the confidence of the public in the impartial administration of justice, it should be treated as an attack on the judiciary.

”In the present case, we are convinced that the statements made by the respondent in the additional written statement is with an intention to scandalise this court, to lower its authority and to destroy the confidence of people in the administration of justice.

”From the language and the context, this court has no hesitation to hold that the respondent wants to convey a message in the additional written statement that the high court as well as the Supreme Court, while passing orders, either do not follow the rule of law or pass orders which are nothing but an abuse of the process of law”, the high court had said.

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