E. M. SANKARAN NAMBOODIRIPAD Vs T. NARAYANAN NAMBIAR
Equivalent citation : 1970 AIR 2015, 1971 SCR (1) 697
Bench: Hidayatullah, M.(Cj)
PETITIONER: E. M. SANKARAN NAMBOODIRIPAD
RESPONDENT: T. NARAYANAN NAMBIAR
DATE OF JUDGEMENT: 31/07/1970
HIDAYATULLAH, M. (CJ)
MITTER, G. K.
R 1972 SC1515 (10)
R 1988 SC1208 (9)
Contempt of court-what is-chief minister of state making remark in public derogatory of the
judiciary and courts-
Sought to justify making them in term of his political ideology based on the teaching of marx
and Engels- if guilty of contempt-constitution of India, Art.
19(1) and (2)-scope of in relation to contempt of court.
Facts Of The Case
Mr. E.M.S. Namboodiripad’s conviction is based on certain utterances of the Appellant,
when he was Chief Minister, at a Press Conference held by him at Trivandrum, on
November 9, 1967.
The report of the Press Conference was published the following day in some Indian
This is what was reported: Marx and Engels considered the judiciary as an instrument of
oppression and even today when the State set up his (sic) not undergone any change
continues to be so; Mr. Nambudiripad told a news conference this morning. He also said
that Judges are lead and dominated by class hatred, class interests and class prejudices
and where the evidence is balanced between a well-dressed pot-bellied rich man and a
poor ill and unable to read person the judge instinctively favors the former the Chief
Minister alleged. The Chief Minister said that election of Judges would a better
arrangement, but unless the basic state set up is changed, it could not solve the problem.
Referring to the Constitution the Chief Minister said the oath he had taken was limited
only to see that the constitutional provisions are practiced. ‘I have not taken any oath’
because “every word and every clause in the Constitution is sacred.”
And thereafter the proceedings commenced in the High Court, the appellant was calls
upon to show why he should not be committed for contempt.
In an affidavit in reply, the appellant stated that the reports were “substantially correct”,
though incomplete in some respects. He supplied some omissions and pleaded want of
intention to show disrespect to the judiciary and justification on the ground that the
offence charged could not be held to be committed, in view of the guarantees of freedom
of speech and expression under the Constitution.
He claimed that his observations did no more than give expression to the Marxist
philosophy -and what was contained in the programme of the Communist Party of India.
By a majority judgment the appellant was convicted for contempt of court and fined Rs.
1000/- or simple imprisonment for one month.
In appeal to this Court it was contended on behalf of the appellant that the law of
contempt must be read without encroaching upon the guarantee of freedom of speech and
expression in Article 19(1)(a) : and that the intention of the appellant in making his
remarks at the press conference should be examined in the light of his political views
which he was at liberty to put before the people.
He sought to justify the remarks as an exposition of his ideology which claimed was
‘based on the teachings of Marx and Engels and on this ground claimed protection of The
first clause of Art. 19(1).
Whether the Appellant has said anything which brings him out of the protection Article
Whether the appellant has said anything which exposes him to the charge of contempt of
Freedom To Speech And Expression:
Article 19(1) (a) is the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression for the
entire citizen. One’s opinions may be expressed by words of mouth, in writing, printing,
pictures, or any other mode. This freedom includes a person’s right to propagate or
publish the views of other people.
The freedom of speech under Article 19(1) (a) includes the entitlement to express one’s
views and opinions at any matter through any medium.
But this right is not absolute and restricted by Article 19(2).
Law Of Contempt Of Court:
Law of contempt stems from the right of the Courts to punish by imprisonment or fines
person guilty of words or acts which either obstruct or tend to obstruct the administration
of justice. This right is exercised in India by all Courts when contempt is committed in
facie curiae and by Superior Courts on their own behalf or on behalf of Courts
subordinate to them even if committed outside the Courts, Formerly, it was regarded as
inherent in the powers of a Court of Record and now by the Constitution of India, it is a
part of the powers of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
There are many kinds of contempts. The chief forms of contempt are insulting the judges,
attacks upon them, comment on pending proceedings to prejudice fair trial, obstruction to
officers of Courts, witnesses or the parties, abusing the process of the Court, breach of
duty by officers connected with the Court and scandalizing the judges or the Courts.
The last form occurs, generally speaking, when the conduct of a person tends to bring the
authority and administration of the law into disrespect or disregard. In this conduct are
included all acts which bring the Court into disrepute or disrespect or which offend its
dignity, affront its majesty or challenge its authority. Such contempt may be committed
in respect of a single judge or a single Court or whole judiciary. The question is whether
in the circumstances of this case the offence was committed.
Issue I: Whether the Appellant has said anything which brings him out of the protection
V.K. Krishna Menon (Advocate of the appellant) argued that the guarantee of freedom of
speech and expression in the article 19(1)(a) of the constitution must not be any how
encroached by the application of law of contempt of court. He further submitted that the
freedom of speech and expression gave immunity to the Appellant as all he did was to
give expression to the teachings of Marx, Engels and Lenin.
He argued that the law of contempt should be applied in such a manner that the freedom
of speech and expression are not whittled down. We know that Article 19(1)(a)
guarantees the complete freedom of speech and expression but it also has an exception in
respect of contempt of Court. The guaranteed right on which the functioning of our
democracy rests, is intended to give protection to expression of free opinions to change
political and social conditions and to advance human knowledge.
Mr. V.K. Krishna Menon read the following observations from Samuel Roth v. United
States of America I.L. Ed. 2nd. 1484 at 1506, Arthur Terminieilo v. City of Chicago, 93
L.Ed.1131 at 1134 Charlotte Anita Whitney v.People of the State of California 71
L.Ed.1095 and New York Times Company v. L.B. Sullivan 11 L.Ed.2nd. 686,on the
high-toned objective in guaranteeing freedom of speech.
The court agreed with agree with the observations and stated that freedom of speech and
expression will always prevail except where contempt is manifest, mischievous or
substantial. He argued that the Appellant has the benefit of the guaranteed right as the
statements which he made were made just to give expression to the teachings of Marx,
Lenien and Eangles and seeks to educate the exploited peoples on the reality behind class
As the appellant has contended before the respondent that the law of contempt should
be applied while keeping in mind the article 19(1)(a) the freedom of speech and
expression. while it is intended there should be freedom of speech, it is also intended that
in the exercise of the right contempt of court shall not be committed.
Article 19(1)(a) guarantees freedom of speech and expression but it also come along with
some exceptions in respect of contempt of court. the right is intended to give protection to
free opinions to change political and social culture and to advance human knowledge. the
right under 19(1)(a) is essential for a free society and the constitution itself has imposed
restrictions, therefore it cannot be said that right abolishes the law of contempt.
Issue II: Whether the appellant has said anything which exposes him to the charge of
contempt of court.
The counsel for the appellant argued that the appellant it might be possible to say that the
speech constituted contempt of Court but submitted that it would be not suitable and
advisable to do so. He stated further that the type of contempt called ‘scandalising the
Court had was no more in use and was no longer enforced in England and relied upon
Mcleod v. St. Aubyn. L.R. 1899 A.C. 549.He further submitted that the freedom of
speech and expression gave immunity to the Appellant as all he did was to give
expression to the teachings of Marx, Engels and Lenin.
Lastly, he contended that a general remark regarding Courts in general did not constitute
contempt of Court and relied upon The Government Pleader High Court, Bombay v.
TulsidasSubharaoJadhav I.L.R. 1938 Bom179,The Appellant has maintained that his
philosophy is based upon that of Marx and Engels. Indeed the claims to be descended
from the last philosophe and seeks to educate the exploited peoples on the reality behind
Marxist-Leninist he advocates the radical and revolutionary transformation of the State
from the violent instrument of exploiting classes to an instrument which the exploited
majority can use against these classes. In this transformation he wishes to makes the state
wither away and with the state its organs, namely, the Legislature, the Executive and the
Judiciary also to change. The law of contempt, he says, cannot be used to deprive him of
Giving the counter arguments towards the cases cited by the Appellant, the defendants
saidthat there is no doubt that the Contempt of Court had fallen into disuse in England as
per the observations in Mcleod v. St. Aubyn but as per the observation in Queen v. Gray
within one year of Mcleod v. St. Aubyn it was disproved and since then many
convictions have taken place under Contempt of Court. Next case was Government
Pleader High Court; Bombay v. Tulsidas Subharao Jadhav which should be disposed of
because the case never laid down that there could never be contempt of court. The
Respondent further contended that all the cases of Contempt of Court are with different
facts and in this way it is difficult to interrelate so each case must be examined on its own
facts and the decision must be reached in the context of what was done or said. Further
the Appellant alleged that whatever was said by E.M. ShankaranNamboodiripad was
according to the learning’s of Marx, Engels and Lenin so the Respondent then explained
the learning’s of Marx, Engels and Lenin in a detailed manner and on the basis of that
argued that in all the writings there is no direct attack on the Judiciary selected as the
target of people’s wrath and also it will be noticed that in all these writings, there is not
that mention of judges which the Appellant has made.
The Appellant either does not know or has deliberately distorted the writings of Marx,
Engels and Lenin for his own purpose. He misunderstood the attack by them on stages
and the laws as involving an attack on the judiciary. It is clear that it is an attack upon
judges which is calculated to raise in the minds of the people a general dissatisfaction
with and distrust of all judicial decisions. It weakens the authority of law and law Courts
which amounts to the Contempt of Court.
Appellant is held liable for the contempt of court and the conviction was upheld by
sentencing him to a nominal fine. They accordingly reduce the sentence of fine to Rs.
50/-. In default of payment of fine he will (sic) mint for one week. With this modification
the appeal will be(sic).
Analysis Of Case
The case throws light on the two major issues which are whether the criticism of the
judiciary must be protected under the fundamental right of freedom of speech and
expression i.e. article 19(1)(a)
And the other is whether such statements as that made by the appellant, in the press
conference should amount to contempt of court.
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