Kerala High Court on Monday dropped the suo motu contempt proceedings initiated against a Malayalam daily, 'Kerala Kaumudi' for publishing an editorial last month on the conduct of a judge hearing the sister Abhaya case.
A Division Bench, comprising justices K Balakrishnan Nair and K Surendra Mohan, closed and dropped the proceedings on the ground that the proceedings adopted for placing the matter for preliminary hearing are "ultra vires" of Section 15 of the Contempt of Court act. Further proceedings in the matter are dropped, the Bench said.
According to Section 15 of the Contempt of Court Act, suo motu proceedings can be taken only by the High Court. As per Article 211 of the Constitution, High Court consists of Chief Justice and all other judges.
In this case, the hearing was posted before the Bench not based on the decision of the High Court, but by a decision of a judge designated by Acting Chief Justice J B Koshy, the bench pointed out.
Suo motu proceedings were initiated against the newspaper for publishing an editorial on Dec 18 last year on the conduct of a judge while hearing the bail petition of three accused in the Sister Abhaya case.
Arguing on the case last week, Advocate General, C P Sudhakara Prasad had said the procedure adopted by the single judge for initiating suo motu contempt case was not correct. If criminal contempt is initiated, the decision should be taken by the Chief Justice and all other judges.
He had also stated that "dignified silence" may be the best.
According to Prasad, the Abhaya case, relating to the mysterious death of a nun in the St Pius convent in 1992, had a background of its own.
He had also brought to the court's notice various news items alleging interference from various quarters. He said according to the editorial, these publications "interfered with administration of justice".
Purport of the publication is to remove the doubt of public in the investigation of the case, he argued.
Approving the AG's submissions, the Bench dropped the contempt proceedings and closed the case saying that the judgment will not affect the powers of a full court taking a decision to initiate action in this matter if it thinks fit.