The apex court was dealing with two separate petitions filed by the policemen against the 2018 order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court which had said that prima facie a case under the provisions of the Act is made out against them for allegedly insulting and humiliating a judicial officer in 2017.
The pleas came up for hearing before a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar which declined to interfere with the high court order.
The advocate, appearing for one of the petitioners who was a constable, said that they had tendered an “unconditional and unqualified apology” in the matter before the high court but it was not accepted and charges under the provisions of the Act were framed.
“If you have misbehaved with the judicial officer, where is the question of accepting apology,” the bench observed.
Advocate Amit Anand Tiwari, appearing for another petitioner who was the station house officer (SHO) of the concerned police station at that time, said there was no allegation that his client had misbehaved with the judicial officer.
The counsel said the petitioner was a constable and he has been charged for committing contempt of court on the allegation that he had misbehaved with a judicial magistrate.
“It was totally inadvertent. We were not aware that he was a judicial officer,” the counsel argued, adding that the petitioner was a driver of the police vehicle.
“That is your defence,” the bench said. The counsel contended that it was there in the report of the district judge as well.
Giving details of the incident, he said the police was chasing a thief and the magistrate’s vehicle was parked on the road because of which the traffic was obstructed.
When the counsel said the petitioner was not aware that the person was a judicial magistrate, the bench observed that local police officer should know the judges of that area. Tiwari said the allegation against the inspector is that he did not take action against the driver. He said the constable was suspended the next day and the inspector was sent to police line for one year.
He argued that the inspector was posted in the area 15 days before the incident and he was not aware that the person was a judicial officer.
In its order, the high court had noted that on perusal of the record and preliminary statements of witnesses, including the complainant judicial magistrate, recorded during preliminary inquiry, prima facie, it was found that the two policemen had publicly “insulted, humiliated and caused injuries to complainant knowingly that he was a judicial officer”.
“This act prima facie amounts to clear interference with the administration of justice, lowering its judicial authority of the court punishable under section 2(c)(ii) and 2(c)(iii) read with section 12 read with section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971,” it had noted.
The high court had sent the matter to the District Judge, Gwalior, to record evidence, giving opportunities of hearing to both the parties and submit the report with findings on charge before it.
With PTI inputs.