The Madras High Court convicted former IPS Officer G. Sampath Kumar in a contempt case filed by cricketer and former Indian Cricket Team Captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni on the ground that his statements were made with an intention to lower the authority of the court.

Dhoni had filed a Contempt Petition under Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 against Sampath Kumar.

A Division Bench comprising Justice S.S. Sundar and Justice Sunder Mohan said, “This Court is really surprised to see that a specific statement is made by the respondent making an allegation as if the Hon'ble Supreme Court deviated from its focus on “Rule of Law” and shelved the deposition in sealed cover for reasons, the respondent unable to comprehend. He has further stated that the Hon'ble Supreme Court chose to keep the select portion of the report of the Justice Mudgal Committee under sealed cover which is required to be probed by SIT for reason best known to the Supreme Court. The respondent, thereafter, in Para No.22 of his additional written statement, while making serious allegations against the Senior Counsels who are representing the petitioner and about the present Standing Counsel, has made an allegation that this Court chose to extend the injunction order without giving a chance to defend. He described the order of injunction as a clear misuse of judicial process and a bad precedent. From a reading of the statements of the respondent in the additional written statement, this Court is prima facie convinced that the statements are contumacious and appears to have been made with an intention to scandalize and lower the authority of this Court as well as the Hon'ble Supreme Court.”

Senior Advocate P.R. Raman appeared for the petitioner while Advocate Perumbulavil Radhakrishan appeared for the respondent.

Factual Background -

Pursuant to an order passed by the Supreme Court in a Special Leave Petition (SLP), a three-member Committee headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal (Retd.) was constituted to probe into the allegations of betting and spot fixing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches. Following the report that was submitted to the Court by the Committee, two public News Channels were broadcasting the version of the respondent i.e., Sampath Kumar and the contents of the said report. It was in these circumstances, the petitioner i.e., Dhoni filed the suit for a permanent injunction restraining the defendants from publishing reports or articles and in any manner insinuating or denigrating the integrity and honesty of Dhoni as a cricketer except the publication or news of the exact judicial order, if any, passed by the courts.

Dhoni also sought damages against the defendants jointly and severally for an amount of Rs. 100 crores. Sampath was the 3rd defendant in the said suit as the damaging part of the news against Dhoni was based on the allegation shared by him. The defendants were involved in defaming Dhoni as if he had participated in the fixing of matches and was aware of fixing matches. The Single Judge of the High Court had granted interim injunction and then Dhoni filed a petition before the Advocate General of Tamil Nadu for his consent to pursue criminal contempt which was granted to him. Hence, the contempt petition was filed before the High Court by him.

The High Court after hearing the contentions of the counsel observed, “The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, has been enacted to secure public respect and confidence in the judiciary as an Institution. If persons like the respondent are 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 respondent in the additional written statement, as extracted above, is with an intention to scandalise this Court, to lower its authority, and to destroy the confidence of people in the administration of justice.”

The Court added 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.

Furthermore, the Court noted that during the course of hearing, the senior counsel for the petitioner fairly submitted that the petitioner is not interested in prosecuting the respondent for contempt, in case the respondent tenders apology for the disparaging remarks made by him against the Supreme Court and High Court.

“However, learned counsel appearing for the respondent contended that the contempt petition is devoid of merits and he relied upon a few judgments to support the case of the respondent. … we are unable to appreciate any of the points urged by the learned counsel appearing for the respondent. As a result, this Contempt Petition is allowed and this Court finds that the respondent is guilty of committing criminal contempt”, said the Court.

However, taking into consideration the credentials of the respondent, as projected by him in his written statement as well in the reply affidavit, the Court, showing lenience, restricted the punishment to Simple Imprisonment for a period of 15 days.

“Even though a request is not received from the side of the respondent, this Court is inclined to exercise its powers under Section 19(3) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, and suspend the execution of punishment imposed on the respondent by this order, for a period of 30 days from the date on which the order of this Court is made ready”, concluded the Court.

Accordingly, the High Court allowed the contempt petition and convicted the respondent.

Cause Title- Mahendra Singh Dhoni v. G. Sampath Kumar, IPS

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