The Kerala High Court on Thursday convicted the leader of a political outfit based in the port city of Kochi for criminal contempt of court and sentenced him to imprisonment for four months.
A bench of Justices A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Mohammed Nias C P convicted Nipun Cherian, leader of a city-based political outfit called V-4 People for criminal contempt of court for making serious allegations of corruption against Kerala High Court judge Justice N Nagaresh with regard to a judgment passed by him.
The division bench also imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 on him.
It also declined his application for suspension of the sentence so that he can move an appeal in the Supreme Court.
The bench said that in view of his conduct during the proceedings, “we are of the view that present is a case where a suspension of sentence is not called for”.
The court also noted that Cherian did not offer any apology at any stage of the proceedings and reiterated the allegations against the judge at every stage, including the final hearing.
“Even when we afforded him an opportunity for expressing his remorse and filing an unconditional apology, after the conclusion of the final arguments, he refused to apologise,” it said, while dismissing his application for suspension of sentence.
In the judgement holding Cherian guilty of criminal contempt of court, the bench said that fair and temperate criticism of the court, even if strong, may not be actionable, but attributing improper motives that tend to bring Judges or courts into hatred and erode public confidence in the judiciary, will lead to contempt action “to uphold the majesty and dignity of the courts of law”.
“This is because, if an impression is created in the minds of the public that the Judges in the highest court of this State act on extraneous considerations in deciding cases, the confidence of the whole community in the administration of justice is bound to be undermined, and we cannot remain mute spectators in such situations,” the court added.
The bench convicted Cherian saying that he unambiguously admitted to making the speech in question and also did not succeed in establishing a defence of justification by truth.
“The entire evidence relied upon by him is hearsay and does not inspire confidence in this court. We are, therefore, of the view that the charges against the respondent stand established and he is liable to be punished for contempt of court,” it said.
On the quantum of sentence to be given to him, the court observed that Cherian did not deserve any leniency as he was “an obstinate and arrogant litigant whose actions are intended to lower the public faith in the judicial institution through baseless allegations”.
However, since Cherian was engineering graduate and only 36 years old, “who will possibly understand the gravity of his misconduct through sufferance of a lesser punishment and will hopefully desist from resorting to such actions in future,” the court sentenced him to four months in prison as against the maximum of six months.
The bench also directed the Station House Officer, Cyber Cell, Ernakulam to take all steps necessary for removing the video containing the offending speech by Cherian from all electronic media platforms forthwith.
Cherian had made the allegations against the judge in a speech that was uploaded and published in the Facebook page of ‘V4 Kochi’ in October last year.