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This apology was with reference to what had been published on the front page of The Indian Express (issue of 20th September 2012), titled 'Appointing judges to tribunals raises questions of integrity, says SC Bench' which also contained the photographs of two Hon'ble Judges. The suo motu contempt notice by the Hon'ble Supreme Court recorded that the Hon'ble Court had been pleased to pass the following order viz. inter alia:
"The contents of the news item (of 20.9.2012) published in The Indian Express suggests that the bench had made observations on the recommendation made by the Hon'ble Chief Justice for appointment of Chairperson of the National Green Tribunal, a post which is lying vacant, and about the integrity of the judges appointed to the Tribunals which was not only misleading but patently false. The Court had only made observation about non-availability of facilities to the members of the Tribunals and hinted that this results in compromising with institutional integrity because the Judges are forced to go to the Executive and ask for various amenities like accommodation, medical facilities and leave travel concession. There was absolutely no reference to the proposed appointment of Hon'ble Justice Swatanter Kumar as Chairperson of the National Green Tribunal. As a matter of fact, the issue of appointment of Hon'ble Justice Swatanter Kumar was not even mentioned by either party. A reference to some incident of a former Judge of Rajasthan High Court was indeed made during the course of deliberations."
The order, pursuant to which the suo motu notice for contempt was issued, also stated as follows:
"Likewise, there was no reference by the Additional Solicitor General to the so called representation made by National Human Rights Commission headed by former Chief Justice of India Shri Justice K G Balakrishnan in respect of Faridkot House where National Human Rights Commission is presently working. What he mentioned was that a portion of Faridkot House which was ordered to be allotted to National Green Tribunal was earlier allotted to Press Council of India and the Court had observed that such allotment ought to be cancelled despite representation by any functionary and the premises be allotted to the National Green Tribunal."
And the Order of the Hon'ble Supreme Court then concluded as follows:
"The distorted reporting of the Court proceedings has the tendency of lowering the dignity of the institution and brings the entire institution of Judiciary to ridicule in the eyes of the public and also shakes the people's confidence in the independence and integrity of the institution."
In response, on the next returnable date of hearing of the Notice for Contempt (fixed on 30th October, 2012), it was stated to the Hon'ble Court that two separate affidavits had already been sworn on 29th October, 2012 of the Principal Correspondent of The Indian Express Mr Utkarsh Anand and of the Printer and Publisher Mr R C Malhotra tendering an unconditional apology. The Hon'ble Court then deferred consideration of the matter till 6th November, 2012.
On 6.11.2012 the said affidavits were read out to the Hon'ble Court which affidavits recorded inter alia as follows:
Affidavit of the Principal Correspondent Mr Utkarsh Anand
"1. Ever since a copy of the order dated 20th September, 2012 was served on me, as to why proceedings may not be initiated against me for misreporting of Court proceedings with reference to an Article under my byline in the New Delhi edition of The Indian Express dated 20th September, 2012, I have been trying to reconstruct the entire scenario in my mind along with my handwritten notes taken by me during the proceedings in Court on 19th September, 2012.
"2. It is now quite clear to me especially after carefully reading the contents of paragraphs 2 & 3 of the order dated 20.9.2012 of this Hon'ble Court (quoted above) that what I wrote in the article by way of attribution was my lack of understanding of what was stated in the Court on that day.
"3. The impression given to the Court by the Article and so expressed in the order passed by this Hon'ble Court on 20.9.2012 that it tended to lower the dignity of the institution and to bring the entire institution of the Judiciary to ridicule in the eyes of the public and also to shake the people's confidence in the independence and integrity of the institution was furthest from my mind or intention. I unhesitatingly apologise for my total lack of appreciation and understanding of all that was said in Court on 19th September 2012.
"4. It is only in order to show my bona fides and to demonstrate that my intention was not at all to misreport or distort anything that happened in Court on that day that I enclose in a sealed cover, to be handed over in Court for its perusal, a verbatim record in my own handwriting (handwritten notes of seven pages) taken down by me in a notebook used by me for Court reporting along with a clean typed copy (transcript)."
"5. It is reiterated that this is not in any way by justification of what was written in the article in The Indian Express dated 20.9.2012 but only to remove from the mind of the Hon'ble Court any impression that I was attempting in any way or endeavouring to distort or misreport the proceedings. I unqualifiedly apologise for the impression given which is recorded in the fourth paragraph of Your Lordship's order dated 20th September, 2012 (also quoted above) and I humbly pray that proceedings may not be initiated against me under the Contempt of Courts Act 1971."
"11. I sincerely and truly believe in the judiciary as an institution and this Hon'ble Court as its acme. I humbly submit that I would never do any act which would have the slightest tendency of lowering the dignity of this Hon'ble Court. I tender my unqualified, sincere and complete regret and apology for my acts, which have led to the issuance of the Contempt Notice."
Affidavit of Printer and Publisher Mr Ramesh Chander Malhotra (who had stated that his responsibility was to ensure the timely and due printing and dispatch of adequate number of copies of The Indian Express, New Delhi edition) and also stating:
"I have gone through and I have understood the contents of the impugned news item. I was not responsible for its authorship, editing, selection or placement. Nevertheless, I reiterate that I have nothing but the highest respect for the Indian judiciary as a whole and for the Hon'ble Supreme Court in particular and I again offer my unqualified complete sincere apology and regret for any possible impression as may have been conveyed, as would have the tendency of lowering the dignity of the judiciary or ridiculing the judiciary in public or shaking the confidence of the people in the independence and integrity of the judiciary.
I humbly submit that at no stage did I ever have any intention to lower the dignity of the judiciary or ridicule the judiciary in public or shake the confidence of the people in the independence and integrity of the judiciary."
The above apology is now published for general circulation as was the offending article. The distress and anguish caused by the publication of the article on 20.09.2012 is deeply regretted.
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