Madras High Court sets a unique example by sentencing the accused who committed contempt of Court on ‘YouTube’

H.H. (Advocate) Suresh Kulkarni

1. Using the Right to Information to accuse high-ranking as well as other officials and publishing defamatory writings about them on YouTube and Web portal

After the death of his father, Savukku Shankar took his place in a Government establishment on compassionate grounds. There he obtained some information through the Right to Information (RTI). Through the information obtained he started making allegations about corruption. In 2008, Savukku recorded a conversation between two IAS officers (Tripathi and Upadhyay) about the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalitha’s corruption. He broadcast this on YouTube. He was arrested in this case, but was acquitted in 2017.

In 2009, Savukku also published various news on a Web portal launched under the name ‘Savukku.net’. By pretending to expose corruption, he worked in such a way that people’s image would get tarnished, and they would be discredited.

2. Despite Madras High Court banning Savukku Shankar’s YouTube channel and his Twitter account, Savukku continued to write defamatory articles about the Judiciary and Judges

The Madras High Court had banned Savukku’s YouTube channel in 2014. Later, his Twitter account was also suspended for spreading instigating and unsubstantiated content. Later, Savukku started writing about the Judiciary. ‘Higher Judiciary, i.e., the Supreme Court and the High Court, are completely corrupt’, he wrote. Savukku also wrote disparagingly about the Judges of Madras or Tamil Nadu who were elevated to the Supreme Court. Defamatory remarks about District and Sessions Judges were made without any evidence. In these, Savukku said, ‘Some District Judges appoint good looking widows and utilise their services. Women are their weakness’.

A Judge from Tamil Nadu had to remain suspended after it was reported that Judges are used to sexual gratification. This was deliberately mentioned by the Madurai High Court Judge while awarding a sentence of 6 months to Savukku.

3. Neither regret nor remorse even after making defamatory remarks about the Judiciary

Savukku Shankar was served a notice for contempt of Court in 2015-16, but no final decision was taken. As a result, Savukku again started making statements through newspapers and channels without fear. He neither regretted nor repented for making defamatory remarks about the Judiciary.

4. The Judge said Savukku Shankar must be prosecuted for writing in an insulting manner without evidence

The Judge said, “Savukku Shankar has crossed all limits. He needs to be punished for crossing the line of journalism in a Democracy. Everyone has been granted the freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of opinion. If these are used along with evidence to speak or criticise or publicise a particular incident, it can be considered or said that it is a constitutional right; however, it is inappropriate and illegal to make insulting or defamatory as well as indiscriminate allegations about Judges on social media in front of lakhs of followers or supporters, and that too without any evidence. Savukku must be punished for this”. A reference was made here to a sentence of (Retd.) Supreme Court Justice VR Krishna Iyer – ‘Justice fails when Judges quail’.

5. Much needed verdict of the Madurai Bench

Savukku Shankar also reported on YouTube that ‘Justice GR Swaminathan had met Temple Trustees and granted bail to a person who had a right-wing or Hindu ideology’, but this had no proof.

For the past 8 years, ever since a pro-Hindu Government has come to power and a handful of judgements given by the High Courts or the Supreme Court have gone in favour of Hindus, some so-called historians and progressives, secularists, defenders of the Constitution, etc. have been naming and criticising the concerned Judges. Such people pass personal remarks against the Judges.

Hindu-haters have accused the Judiciary indiscriminately in cases like the Ram Janmabhoomi case, the Hijab case, the Triple Talaq case, the Gujarat riots case in which Prime Minister Modi was given a clean-chit, or the case where a judgment was passed in favour of the Enforcement Directorate getting unlimited powers. Hindu-haters even made derogatory statements about the Judges. All this is inappropriate. Owing to this, the Madurai Bench rightly punished Savukku Shankar for contempt of Court. Indeed, it should be deemed as a much-needed verdict. This will strengthen the importance, distinction and respect of 136 crore Indians in the Judiciary !

II Shrikrushnarpanamastu II

– H.H. (Advocate) Suresh Kulkarni (Advocate in the Bombay High Court, 26.9.2022)

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