New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday said contemptuous remarks against the judiciary will weaken the institution, though it was not averse to bonafide expression of opinion on corruption and its shortcomings if made with some basis.

The Apex Court said the judiciary was still one of the institutions which had "withstood all kinds of pressure" and has remained a strong pillar of democracy.
    
"You can file a bonafide report but cannot express an opinion recklessly without any foundation. Tomorrow, anybody can stand up in the court and make comments on the judiciary.
    
"This institution's image will get eroded. It will become weak. This judiciary has withstood all kinds of pressure. It is one pillar which has remained strong," the Apex Court observed.
    
A bench of justices Altamas Kabir, Cyriac Joseph and H L Dattu made the remarks while adjourning till January 4 the plea of advocate Prashant Bhushan seeking reference to a
Constitution Bench the issue whether "bonafide opinion" on corruption judiciary amounted to contempt.
    
Bhushan, who is facing contempt proceedings for his comments in 2009 on Chief Justice S H Kapadia and the judiciary in an interview to a magazine, during the brief hearing on Thursday, argued bonafide expression cannot be deemed as contemptuous, though "reckless" remarks cannot be permitted.
    
The Apex Court had earlier agreed to consider referring to a Constitution Bench the question whether "bonafide opinion" on corruption in a section of the judiciary amounted to contempt and should the person making the allegation prove it by way of evidence.

The questions are: whether the expression of bonafide opinion about corruption in a section of the judiciary would amount to contempt of court and whether the person who expresses such opinion about the extent of corruption in a section of the judiciary is obliged to prove that his opinion is correct or whether it is enough to show that he bonafide held that opinion.
     
The Apex Court had earlier rejected the plea of counsel Ram Jethmalani, appearing for Bhushan, that the proceedings should be dropped as it "would not serve the purpose of the Contempt of Courts Act."
    
Bhushan had in his interview said Justice Kapadia, being a member of the Forest Bench along with then Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, should not have heard the matter relating to Vedanta Sterlite Group as he held shares of the company.

Judges must act fairly: SC

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has set aside an order of a single judge of the Delhi High Court who had dismissed an appeal against acquittal in a dowry death case although as a sessions judge he had recused himself from the case on personal grounds.
    
The Apex Court gave a clean chit to Justice S N Dhingra (since retired) in the matter however and opined a judge "must not only act fairly but must be able to act above suspicion of unfairness and bias."
    
"It is a well settled law that a person who tries a cause should be able to deal with the matter placed before him objectively, fairly and impartially. No one can act in a judicial capacity if his previous conduct gives ground for believing that he cannot act with an open mind or impartially.
    
"The broad principle evolved by this court is that a person, trying a cause, must not only act fairly but must be able to act above suspicion of unfairness and bias," a bench of justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad said.
    
The Apex Court passed the order while reverting back to the High Court for "fresh disposal" of the appeal by Narinder Singh Arora, challenging the dismissal of his revision petition by Justice Dhingra on September 1, 2010, although the same judge had recused when the matter came up before him during the trial in 2003.
    
Arora had challenged the acquittal of the accused in a case relating to harassment and murder of a woman allegedly for dowry. After Dhingra as a sessions judge had recused, another took up the matter and acquitted the accused.
    
However, when the revision petition was filed in the high court, the matter had come up for hearing before Justice Dhingra who dismissed the revision petition. "It is apparent that the fact of earlier recusal of the case at the trial by learned Shri Justice S N Dhingra himself was not brought to his notice in the revision petition before the High Court by either of the parties to the case.
    
"Therefore, Shri Justice S N Dhingra, owing to inadvertence regarding his earlier recusal, has dismissed the revision petition by the impugned judgment.
    
"In our opinion, the impugned judgment, passed by Shri Justice S N Dhigra subsequent to his recusal at trial stage for personal reasons, is against the principle of natural justice and fair trial," the bench observed.

(JPN/Agencies)