SC stays ex-IPS officer's sentence in MS Dhoni's contempt plea

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M S Dhoni IPS officer G Sampath Kumar

MS Dhoni (Left); G Sampath Kumar (Right)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday granted an interim stay on the 15-day simple imprisonment given by the Madras High Court to retired IPS officer G Sampath Kumar in a contempt of court case filed by former team India cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

A bench of Justices A S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan issued notice on Kumar's plea against the high court order.

The matter has been posted for next hearing on March 8.

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

In his contempt petition, Dhoni sought to punish Kumar for the remarks made by him against the judiciary in his written statement filed in response to a Rs 100 crore defamation suit.

Dhoni had moved the court in 2014 against the former cop for having named the popular cricketer in the Indian Premier League (IPL) betting scam.

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

Kumar, by his specific words, has attacked the judiciary indecently 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.

The high court had said when a general statement was made against it for granting interim order describing the order as an abuse of process of law, it was not a fair comment. Similarly, accusing the Supreme Court that it failed to focus on "Rule of Law" cannot be accepted as a fair expression of grievance of a party to the dispute, the bench 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 as contained in the Contempt of Courts Act. Since maintenance of dignity of courts was one of the cardinal principles of Rule of Law, any publication or a public speech which results in undermining it cannot be permitted, as held by the SC in several precedents, the high court had said.

The high court had said the Contempt of Courts Act has been 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 Rule of Law or pass orders which are nothing but abuse of process of law", the high court had said.