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Mulgaonkar principles

Date: 23 August 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

In the criticism against the Supreme Court’s ruling that held advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court, his counsel has invoked the ‘Mulgaonkar principles’, urging the court to show restraint.

 

Background

S Mulgaonkar v Unknown (1978) is a case that led to a landmark ruling on the subject of contempt. By a 2:1 majority, the court held Mulgaonkar not guilty of contempt.

 

Details

  • An article by A G Noorani in the newspaper about certain judicial decisions during the Emergency period, especially the Habeas Corpus case, had displeased then CJI Beg.

  • The Habeas Corpus case, often referred to as the “Supreme Court’s darkest hour” upheld the detention law, citing that even the right to life can be suspended during an emergency.

  • Justices A N Ray, Beg, Y V Chandrachud, and P N Bhagwati formed the majority while Justice H R Khanna was the sole dissenter.

  • Initially, the SC Registrar wrote to the editor seeking a retraction and an apology, which did not happen.

  • While CJI Beg’s opinion was that Mulgaonkar’s response to the Registrar was as if the case was between the newspaper and people, and not between the newspaper and the court.

  • The Court will act with seriousness and severity where justice is jeopardized by a gross and/or unfounded attack on the judges, where the attack is calculated to obstruct or destroy the judicial process.

  • The court will not be prompted to act as a result of an easy irritability.

  • The court is willing to ignore, by a majestic liberalism, trifling and venial offenses.

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