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A-27, Surya Apartments, Katora Talab, Raipur –492001: Chhattisgarh

Press Release

Rajendra Sail given One Week Imprisonment by the Supreme Court In
Contempt of Court Case

Raipur, 21st April 2005 (Thursday)

            The Supreme Court today sentenced Rajendra K Sail, President of Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in the Contempt of Court Case, which arose out of his statements uttered in the wake of acquittal of murderers of Shaheed Shanker Guha Niyogi by the MP High Court at Jabalpur in June 1998. It may be recalled that the MP High Court had sentenced Rajendra Sail for six month’s simple imprisonment on 19th March 2001. Today’s judgement was passed in an Appeal against the MP High Court judgement filed by Sail in the Supreme Court of India, in which the arguments were held on 22nd February 2005.

            In a judgement delivered today, Hon’ble Justice Y S Sabbarwal and Tarun Chhatterji of the Supreme Court said that ‘with regard to his work and the organisation with which he has been associated and the PILs that he has filed, we find the sentence given by the High Court unjustified. And hereby reduce the sentence to one week simple imprisonment’.  However, the conditional apology tendered by Rajendra Sail was unacceptable.

            The four others belonging to The Hitvada Daily published from Nagpur, Maharashtra, were acquitted and their unconditional apology was accepted. It may be recalled that these four press persons were also sentenced with six month’s imprisonment along with Sail by the MP High Court.

            According to a press release, issued by Chhattisgarh PUCL, treating the social activist differently from the press persons was not considered as a healthy sign. Expressing concern at the increasing use of Contempt of Court Act 1971, mainly on social and human rights activists and movement, the PUCL said that on the one hand Rajendra Sail stands vindicated in this judgement, because the MP High Court had passed a harsh punishment of six month’s which has been referred to as “unjustified” by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. On the other hand, it goes on to confirm the growing belief that the Contempt of Court proceedings are also being used to silence the voices of dissent in a democracy, especially by those resisting globalization, combating communalism and defending democracy. The PUCL clearly stands for the repeal of the Contempt of Court Act, which are irrelevant in the current context of call for public accountability and transparency.

            The Contempt of Court proceedings were initiated by the MP Bar Association at Jabalpur on the basis of statements purportedly made by Rajendra Sail and published by The Hitvada on Shaheed Diwas on 1st July 1998. The background of the case is the public protest by various organisations and activists against the acquittal of all accused by the MP High Court in June 1998 in the Shaheed Shanker Guha Niyogi Murder Case. It may be re-called that the trial court at Durg had convicted Paltan Mallah, the hired assassin, with capital punishment, and two industrialists of Simplex Group of Industries, and three of their muscle-men with life imprisonment. There were nation-wide protests against their acquittal by the MP High Court. Later, on 20th January 2005, the Supreme Court in an Appeal reversed the MP High Court judgement to the extent that it found Paltan Mallah guilty of murder. However, it reduced his sentence from capital punishment to life-imprisonment, but upheld the acquittal of five others, including the industrialists.

            The public perception about such cases is that the rich and powerful get away after committing crimes against humanity, while the poor and oppressed hardly get any relief from the judicial system.

            The PUCL has also noted with concern that such judgements do not, in any way, help in restoring people’s faith in judicial system. On the contrary, people are getting more and more disillusioned with the justice delivery system.

            Prominent Human Rights Lawyers Adv Sanjay Parikh, Adv Indira Jai Singh, Adv Naveen R Nath, Adv Sanjoyu Ghose , Adv Mohini Bhatt and Adv Anita Shenoy of the Supreme Court represented Rajendra Sail.


Goldie M George
Member, State Executive Committee
Chhattisgarh PUCL