The Karnataka High Court has imposed costs of Rs. 10 Lakhs on New India Express for publishing a report titled 'Judge Guilty Of Unacceptable Intimacy With Steno: HC Report' against a District Judicial Officer, even after the Administrative Committee of the High Court had resolved not to accept the report of the Inquiring Authority.

The Bench of Justice NS Sanjay Gowda emphasized that a responsible newspaper such as the New Indian Express ought to have ascertained complete facts and ought not to have published an article with incomplete facts, more so when the matter was admittedly of a sensitive nature relating to a Senior Judicial Officer, and observed that, "it is noticed that the New Indian Express which published the Newspaper article in question, has acted in a manner unbecoming of a responsible Newspaper, and their reporters and Editors have also acted in an unacceptable matter. They have proceeded to publish an article in their Newspaper, which has large circulation, with the title “Judge Guilty of ‘Unacceptable intimacy’ with Steno: HC Report”. The headline of this front page article would indicate that the Newspaper was already reporting as though the charges against the petitioner had already been established by a report of the High Court that a Judge had unacceptable intimacy with a Stenographer, and the Newspaper, thereafter, goes on to state the summary of each charge.... In other words, nearly 6 months before the publication of the article in question, a decision not to accept the Report had already been taken, and yet, this crucial aspect of the matter is totally missing in the Newspaper article. This aspect of the refusal of the Administrative Committee to accept the inquiry report obviously had an enormous bearing on the entire issue, but this crucial information was not at all covered/reported by the Newspaper."

Senior Counsel Udaya Holla, along with others, appeared for the respondents. The petitioner appeared in person.

The petitioner, a former District and Sessions Judge, retired on April 30, 2014, following his appointment on May 15, 1996. The case originated from a complaint filed by three advocates on February 4, 2011, with the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court. The misconduct allegations against the petitioner involved accusations of illicit relationships with two women and acts of financial impropriety. It was claimed that the petitioner misused his official position to develop intimate relationships with female subordinates, exchanged numerous phone calls and text messages, and made calls at odd hours. Additionally, there were allegations of favouritism in hiring practices and improper conduct in the appointment of staff, including instances where appointments were made without proper verification of candidates' records. Furthermore, financial irregularities were alleged, such as making double payments and purchasing items without following proper procedures.

This complaint led to the initiation of a departmental inquiry, with charges framed against the petitioner on September 5, 2011. Despite the Inquiry Authority finding certain charges proved against the petitioner, the Administrative Committee of the High Court did not accept these findings on November 18, 2013.

Amidst these proceedings, an article was published in the New Indian Express on December 20, 2013, alleging misconduct by the petitioner. The article highlighted specific charges against the petitioner, such as misusing official communication channels for personal purposes, hiring individuals without proper qualifications, and making financial transactions without adherence to established procedures. It also mentioned instances where the petitioner allegedly showed favouritism to certain vendors and made unauthorized payments. The article concluded by stating that the disciplinary committee was likely to make a decision regarding the petitioner's future based on the inquiry findings.

However, on December 21, 2013, the Full Court of the Karnataka High Court resolved to drop the proceedings against the petitioner. Subsequently, the petitioner retired.

Following his retirement, the petitioner initiated legal action against the High Court, respondents, and the newspaper for defamation and damages. This legal action included the filing of a writ petition on April 1, 2015, seeking various reliefs such as the removal of defamatory content, disclosure of committee members' names, and compensation.

The High Court observed that, "it is clear that the failure on the part of the Newspaper to find out about the entire process relating to the inquiry process, given the sensitive nature of the issue, is definitely unprofessional, and this failure on their part has caused immense damage to the petitioner and also the entire judicial process of judging the conduct of a Judicial Officer."

In light of the same, the Court imposed costs of Rs.10,00,000/- on the owner of the Newspaper, payable to the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority.


Respondents: Senior Counsels Udaya Holla, G Krishnamurthy, Counsels Vivek Holla, GK Bhavana, MN Umashankar, K Govindaraj

Cause Title: Veeranna G Tigadi vs High Court of Karnataka & Ors.

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