In the High Court of Judicature at Madras, Madurai Bench
Suo Motto Contempt Petition (MD) No. 1124 of 2022
In the matter of A.Shankar @Savukku Shankar … Contemnor / Respondent
Affidavit filed in response to the Contempt Petition
I, A.Shankar, son of Late Achimuthu, aged about 44 years residing at 12/6, TNHB flats, Maduravoyil, Chennai- 600 095, now come down to Madurai for the purpose of this case do hereby solemnly affirm and sincerely state as follows:-
1) At the outset I state that I have the greatest respect for the Institution of the Judiciary and see it as a very important organ of Constitutional governance in our democracy.
2) I also state that I take my duties as a citizen with utmost responsibility and truly believe in participative democracy. I engage with matters happening in my country on a regular basis, and do not believe that a citizen’s role is restricted to voting once in 5 years. It is because I love my country so much and because I want her institutions to be strengthened and because I care when injustice happens – it is for these reasons that I speak up and write. I truly believe as Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer wrote in Mohinder Singh Gill v. CEC AIR 1978 SC 851 “Democracy is a continual participative operation, not a cataclysmic, periodic exercise.”
3) On 18.08.2022 I was served notice of a contempt based on an Order dated 04.08.2022 passed by the Bench of Hon’ble Mr.Justice G.R.Swaminathan and Hon’ble Mr. Justice B.Pugalendhi of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. It refers to a statement that fell from my mouth in the course of a conversation of more than one hour with a Youtube channel called Red Pix on 22.07.2022. The statement referred to in the contempt notice is ‘The entire higher judiciary is riddled with corruption’.
4) This was an oral statement made, not in a prepared speech, but in the course of an interview. The words are part of a larger statement. When taken out of its context and seen as a stand-alone statement, it may seem it could have been better worded. However, when heard in context and when the circumstances in which the conversation has happened is looked at in its entirety and when the statements before and after are looked at, this Hon’ble Court will believe me when I say that the statement does not show and is not intended to show any disrespect to the Hon’ble Court nor to scandalise the Court.
5) It is necessary for me to relate the background of the interview in the video. An Order dated 19.07.2022 had been passed by Hon’ble Mr.Justice G.R.Swaminathan which had been widely circulated on social media. This Order was a suo moto contempt that the Learned Judge was initiating against me for my activities as a Twitter account holder. In particular, the Order had displayed three of my Tweets. The Order opened with a display of a Tweet of mine which commented on a cartoon drawn by somebody else and had been put out in the public domain. While sharing that cartoon the comment I had put was simply “Present state of Supreme Court put simply”. I don’t think the Learned Judge has found this tweet to be in Contempt, however has chosen to open the Order with a display of it. The Order reads
“Thiru Savukku Sankar is a Youtuber/Blogger and a commentator on current affairs. He gives regular interviews to various channels in the social media. He also tweets regularly. He is unsparing in his attack on individuals and institutions including the judiciary. While even strident criticism is permissible, defamatory vilification is not. He has been focusing his gaze on me for the last several months. He had commented on many of my judgments in the most uncharitable language. His attacks have often been personal. Since I am a strong believer in upholding freedom of speech and expression, I did not pay heed to them. However, his latest tweet appears to have crossed the Lakshman Rekha. It is as follows: …”
6) The Order then displayed one particular tweet of mine and stated
“`Shri Maridhas is another well-known Youtuber. He was implicated in two criminal cases. Petitions to quash them were filed. Since I was hholding the concerned roster the cases came before me. After hearing the State as well as the defacto complainant, I quashed the proceedings. Thiru Savukku Sankar had condemned the said decisions in the most vituperative words. I genuinely felt that Thiru Sankar was entitled to pass comments on my judgments. But though the offending tweet, Thiru A.Shankar has questioned my integrity.”
7) The third Tweet mentioned in the Order related to my posting a screen shot of a portion of the cause list showing that Advocate Antony Arulraj a former junior of Hon’ble Mr.Justice G.R.Swaminathan continued to appear before him. The Order says “I have completed 5 years as a Judge of the Madras High Court. My work output is as follows:” The Order proceeded to give a tabular column which was a category wise disposals done by Hon’ble Mr.Justice G.R.Swaminathan from 28.06.2017 to 24.06.2022.
8) The Order states:
“For the salary drawn by me and the perquisites enjoyed, I believe I have worked to the fullest. I have been able to achieve this result by sitting from 9.30 AM onwards and beyond the Court hours. Thiru Shankar has been poking fun at my sitting hours. I felt vindicated when His Lordship the Hon’ble Mr.Justice U.U.Lalit spoke in support of early sitting. It is ironical that Thiru Shankar who was employed in the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption as a Ministerial staff is said to be getting subsistence allowance for several years. A person who is getting paid by the State without doing any work has the audacity to mock at a Judge who feels he must justify every paise that he gets from the exchequer. The State government is obliged to make a statement regarding the status of the disciplinary action initiated against Thiru Savukku Shankar. I came to know from an interview that a complaint of sexual harassment is pending against Thiru Savukku Shankar for more than 10 years. I am also informed that eventhough the Madras High Court gave a direction for concluding the investigation by CBI in a case involving Thiru Savukku Shankar nothing has transpired.
I take judicial notice of the fact that the Twitter account of Thiru Savukku Shankar was recently suspended. But he has managed to create an alternative account. In mythology, whenever the head of an Asura is slayed, another one will pop up. Thiru Savukku Shankar appears to have taken inspiration from such mythological characters. The Social media intermediaries such a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube might have received several complaints against Thiru Savukku Shankar so far. These entities have compliance officers and their duty is to ensure that contents scandalising judges and judiciary are not posted and if posted, are taken down.”
9) The order then refers to a speech given by Hon’ble Mr.Justice J.B.Paridiwala where the Learned Judge has opined that digital and social media need to be mandatorily regulated in the country to preserve the rule of law under the Constitution. The Order then proceeded to implead the social media intermediaries like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and directed the Registry to serve notice on their compliance officers. The compliance officers were directed to file affidavits setting out the details of complaints received by them against me. They were to set out the action taken by them on such complaints. The order also impleaded the Secretary to Government, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
10) The Hindu daily reported about this Order dated 19.07.2022 on 20.07.2022. A copy of this Order was also widely circulated on Social media. A copy of the Order dated 19.07.2022 is annexed herewith as Annexure A.
11) A reading of the Order of dated 19.07.2022 gives me the impression that the Learned Judge is seriously irritated by comments on social media and seeks to use the contempt petition against me as an opportunity to regulate or clamp down on social media. I also came to understand that few days before the Order dated 19.07.2022 the Learned Judge while hearing a service matter relating to subsistence allowance, which was totally unrelated to me, had remarked in open court to the AAG that there is this fellow called Savukku Shankar who is getting subsistence allowance for many years and that it needs to be investigated.
12) On 22.07.2022, I was being interviewed on Red Pix, Youtube channel on the subject of the Order dated 19.07.2022. The discussion revolved around many issues of freedom of speech and my tweets. I have till date not received a notice of the Contempt initiated based on the order dated 19.07.2022.
13) However, in two weeks of the Order dated 19.07.2022, Hon’ble Mr.Justice G.R.Swaminathan and Hon’ble Mr. Justice B.Pugalendhi of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, passed another Order dated 04.08.2022 which I understand, was the basis on which the Notice was issued to me on the present contempt petition. The Order read as follows:
‘Thiru Shankar @Savukku Shankar, a suspended employee of the Government of Tamil Nadu in an interview to a Youtube Channel, namely, Red Pix on 22.07.2022 had made the following statement :
“The entire higher judiciary is riddled with corruption”
14) When I appeared before the Hon’ble Bench on 01.09.2022 I requested for the material from where the statement in the contempt notice was taken. The reason I asked for the material was that the notice referred to one sentence in a nearly hour long interview. If the Hon’ble Bench had heard the full conversation they would see that the statement was not made in a disrespectful manner. I was told to go and get it on my own from YouTube. I was directed to file a reply by 08.09.2022 to show cause why Contempt should not be initiated against me. I was also asked if I had an Advocate to represent me or whether I wanted legal services. I had requested the bench to get Mr.N.R.Elango Senior Advocate to represent me.
15) On 08.09.2022 when I appeared before the Hon’ble Bench I filed an affidavit with a petition seeking 8 weeks time to file my reply. I had sought for the transcript of the interview dated 22.07.2022. My affidavit stated “At the outset I submit that I have the greatest respect for the judiciary / institution and as a citizen of the country I play my part in improving the stature of this Hon’ble Court and its esteem in the eyes of the public.” I had sought the order that empowered the same Hon’ble Judge who had twice initiated contempt against me to hear the present contempt. A copy of this affidavit is produced herewith as Annexure B.
16) When the matter was taken up at 10.30 AM, I was asked whether I was filing a reply. I handed over the affidavit to the Bench and sought time and the material. I was asked if I was giving a reply now or not. I said I needed time. The matter was posted to 1 pm for framing of charges.
17) At 1 pm I was given an Order containing the charges against me. I noted that the charges now referred not just to the 1 hour conversation on Redpix on 22.07.2022; but had expanded to some selectively picked out portions from an Article I wrote on my blog titled “Neethi Thuraiyin Karuppu Kakkangal – 1, Neethi Thurayil Parpaniyam” dated 25.08.2022 and from another interview on Redpix YouTube channel on 01.07.2022; and yet another interview on News Sense Youtube channel on 06.09.2022. I sought time to file a reply. I was asked to argue immediately. The matter was posted to 2.15 PM for my submissions.
18) At 2.15 PM the Bench asked me what I had tried to say in the morning. I said I had wanted time to file a proper reply. I was given a transcript, a pen drive and my blog article. The Bench asked the Court officer to give me a paper and pen and directed me to write a petition in Court language seeking time. I wrote. I was told that I will be given 2 weeks’ time if I will promise not to write or speak about these contempt proceedings outside the Court. I said I cannot give up my Fundamental rights. I was asked to argue immediately then. I said in that case I may as well be given my punishment then and there. I said that even a person getting a death penalty is given a chance to explain. Then I was given 1 weeks’ time to give my reply. Therefore, I am filing this affidavit today.
19) I respectfully submit that this whole episode of contempt proceedings against me started with the Order dated 19-07-2022. That Notice has still not been served on me. Then the next contempt Notice dated 05.08.2022 picked out One line in my nearly hour long interview and asked me to Reply. When I was given the charges on 08.09.2022, I find that the charges have expanded to beyond what was in the contempt notice. New material is now being looked at. Now I have to look at the transcripts of the 2 additional interviews dated 01.07.2022 on Redpix and 06.09.2022 on News Sense channel also and my article on my blog. This expanding of charges is unfair. I must know specifically what I am to reply to and be given sufficient time to reply. If the goalpost keeps shifting I am placed at a disadvantage. I say that in this regard, the Contempt of Court Rules of the Madras High Court, Rule 6 provides at least 4 weeks’ time to a contemnor to respond. I am not being given that time here and at the same time additional charges are being added. Rule 8 speaks of process to be followed when a Judge considers any matter might have come to his notice in any way requiring initiation of contempt. In that case relevant papers are forwarded to the Hon’ble Chief Justice for consideration as to whether the matter may be forwarded to the Advocate General. I am not aware if such process has been followed. In that event, the Advocate General’s opinion on this matter might also become relevant.
20) Selective picking of portions from my interviews and article and putting them down in isolation may make them sound disrespectful, controversial and sensational. Displaying them in isolation might give an appearance of a scandal. However, I have not made these statements in isolation. They are all made in a particular context. In the flow of conversations about several issues relating to the legal system. None of these conversations are abusive or scandalizing. They are well-meaning and very important conversations. I respectfully submit that the entire conversation needs to be looked at to see the context. I need time to make an accurate transcript of these conversations and articles and if directed, translated into English and shall produce them in due course.
21) Further the issues raised in these conversations are not issues raised only by me or being said for the first time. Several stalwarts in the legal profession have raised these issues before. There are organisations that are studying these issues and collecting data on these. There are several commentators analysing these issues.
22) The interview dated 01.07.2022 on the Personal Security Officers system (The PSO interview) is a detailed analysis of the problems that arise when PSO’s are attached to a judge till they retire. When there is no rotation of the PSO’s there is increased scope for misuse and corrupt practices. It leads to indiscipline with PSO’s not being able to be controlled by higher ranked officers. I speak about misuse of good state resources. In the interview I even give an example of a police officer who had posted 2 constables to look after his ailing father. When this information was given to me and I had tweeted about it, the police officer immediately asked the two constables to go report at the police station and thereafter appointed 2 private nurses for his father. I even say in this interview that this is the reason why I speak of such issues; so that authorities take self-corrective steps.
23) I was invited to give an interview on News Sense on 06.09.2022 as they wanted to discuss the present Contempt proceedings. We discussed how important freedom of speech was, even on matters relating to the judicial and legal system, in order to ensure that the system does not get eroded and is made more robust. We discussed why most people hesitated to talk of the legal system because of fear of Contempt powers. I talked about the cases of Justice PD Dinakaran and Justice Soumitra Sen in the context of the judges’ resignations being an insufficient remedy for society when the corrupt judge is allowed to get away with the proceeds of his crime and all the money he has made. I discuss Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s sexual harassment complaint and how he himself presided over the bench constituting the internal inquiry into the complaint against his own conduct – and how the lady had to kiss the feet of Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s wife but was still removed from service and strangely even brought back into service after Justice Ranjan Gogoi retired as CJI. I point out that there is no complaint mechanism against the judges for misconduct. And I ask why should it be so? It is in the context of this conversation where so many such issues are being discussed that the lines mentioned in the charge sheet are said. I respectfully submit that the entire conversations when looked at in the natural course from the perspective of an ordinary reader or listener who is not being hypersensitive, are not intended as disrespect at all, but are intended as a concerned citizen doing his duty to seek correction for the institution. On the other hand, if a person chooses to ignore the entire conversation and pick and choose words and phrases that sound controversial and sensational, the words of Lord Atkin in Ambard v. Attorney General for Trinidad and Tobago AC 322 will serve as a reminder: “Justice is not a cloistered virtue. She must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken, comments of ordinary men.”
In P.N.Duda v. P.Shiv Shankar & Others AIR 1988 SC 1208 Justice Sabyasachi Mukherjee wrote:
“A decision on the question whether the discretion to take action for Contempt of Court should be exercised must depend on the totality of facts and circumstances of the case. …To criticize a judge fairly albeit fiercely, is no crime but a necessary right. Where freedom of expression subserves public interest in reasonable measure, public justice cannot gag it or manacle it. The Court must avoid confusion between personal protection of a libeled judge and prevention of obstruction of public justice and the community’s confidence in that great process. The former is not contempt but latter is, although overlapping spaces abound. The fourth functional canon is that the Fourth Estate should be given free play within responsible limits even when the focus of its critical attention is the court, including the highest court. The fifth normative guideline for the Judges to observe is not to be hypersensitive even where distortions and criticisms overstep the limits, but to deflate vulgar denunciation by dignified bearing, ……”
24) Similarly ,there is a reference in the Order dated 08.09.2022 to selective portions of my article titled Brahminism in the judiciary in my blog savukkuonline.com. In that article I discuss a very important issue relating to judges’ appointments to the High Court and elevation to the Supreme Court. I discuss the need for diversity on the Bench to achieve Social justice. I discuss how one community is over represented. I refer to the judges supercession episode in Indira Gandhi’s time when one justice refused to take up the post of CJI superceding his brother judges in contrast to Chief Justice A.N.Ray who had no qualms in doing so. This is a conversation that has been happening in our country in Court corridors and also in public fora in the context of Justice Akhil Khureshi’s elevation not happening, the elevation of judges without being elevated as Chief Justices of High Courts and out of turn elevations outside of the All-India Seniority list. In the article I discuss why a Chartered High Court like Madras should have it’s decision about new judges appointment being interfered with by judges who had already left the Madras High Court. In a farewell speech one of the Hon’ble Judges leaving the High Court had said “I will continue calling the Shots”- This was reported in Indian Express on 26.04.2016.
This blog article was written in the context of the latest list for appointments not being one that went from the High Court’s collegium, but was imposed from the judges who had left Madras High Court and reached the Supreme Court. This was an important article on issues of social justice and dignity of the Chartered High Court.
25) Similarly, in the interview on 22.07.2022, the discussion was about why Contempt power was being used to dissuade people from commenting on judgments and providing fair criticism. The discussion was around human psychology that made it difficult for those holding power to take criticism. We discussed how personal and political ideologies can influence judgments to extreme extents. It is in this context the word “corrupt” would be seen as meaning “doubtful integrity” in many different senses and not just financial corruption.
26) The issues that I have talked about in the interviews and article are not new. I am filing a note as Annexure C with references to Parliament Reports, Answers to Questions in Parliament, Research and Data collection Reports and Newspaper articles that show the discussions that are happening on these issues in our society at different levels. The links provided in the note can be accessed online. I am also attaching print-outs of a few of the referred material along with the Note. I crave leave of this Hon’ble Court to read them as part of this affidavit.
27) To the best of my memory, I have commented on four decisions of Hon’ble Mr.Justice G.R.Swaminathan. Two Orders quashed two FIRs against Rightwing youtuber Maridhas. One related to his Youtube presentation of about 30 minutes talking of “CORONA JIHAD”. He pretended to do it innocently saying it was not against all Muslims but was only against the Tablighi Jamaat. The entire build up of the presentation was malicious, venomous injection of slow poison into the minds of the viewers to turn them against an entire community itself. He used graphics to show how Corona could be used as an act of terrorism and kill more people than bombs. I am aware that other courts have expressed their concern about such communal reporting and the Hon’ble Supreme Court has asked the Centre to respond on steps being taken to control this problem. The other FIR against the same rightwing youtuber Maridhas was for his Tweet soon after the helicopter crash of former Chief of Defense Services Shri Bipin Rawat. This again was intentionally mischievous as though suggesting a conspiracy theory happening from the State of Tamil Nadu. It emerged in the news later that the local people of Tamil Nadu had provided valuable assistance at the crash site and helped the victims be rushed to the hospital, and the Indian Air Force had so graciously even thanked the local people of Tamil Nadu for their valuable assistance.
28) When Hon’ble Mr.Justice G.R.Swaminathan quashed both FIRs saying that Maridhas had Art 19(1)(a), I criticized fairly that Maridhas’s actions were in fact hate mongering and should have been allowed to be tested by the legal system. I sincerely respect that the Hon’ble Judge has even written that “a Youtuber or an social media personality who regularly comments on public affairs has the very same rights that the journalists and media enjoy under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.” However I criticized that a reference to Article 51 A was made to excuse the mischievous tweet of Maridhas as a ‘naïve tweet in the Pamukian sense’. The idea of the naïve writer as expressed in the judgement – entitled to have his Art 19(1)(a) protected as much as the sentimental writer – was interesting and may even apply to me and to spoken words as well:
“Orhan Pamuk who was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature makes a distinction between the “naive and the sentimental novelist”. The naïve write spontaneously, almost without thinking, not bothering to consider the intellectual or ethical consequences of their words and paying no attention to what others might say. The sentimental writing is deliberate, well thought out and shaped in constant revision and self-criticism. The latter is the product of deep reflection.”
29) The third case related to an FIR which was not quashed. It related to a Christian Pastor George Ponnaiah who had in a speech said walking without shoes on Bhoomidevi will cause scabies and that Christianity had taught you to wear a shirt. But you go into a temple without a shirt. The Learned Judge opined that this was disrespectful and sufficiently provocative and reeks of malice and supremacism. The judgment speaks about increasing population of minority groups and changing demographics and religious conversions in the region and uses the word Crypto-Christians for those who get converted but still show themselves as Hindus to get reservations. References are made in the judgment to apparent attempts to change the name of Kanyakumari to Kanni Mary and Nagerkovil to (Yesu) Natherkoil.
30) The fourth case related to investigation of a girl student’s death allegedly by suicide at a Christian Convent school in Michaelpatti. There were allegations of forced conversion on the one hand, and counter allegations of ill-treatment by the step-mother. The Learned Judge transferred the investigation out from the State police as they had ruled out the conversion angle, and handed it over to the CBI to investigate as he found that the conversion angle was a very plausible angle. The logic was that the school was situated in a place called Michaelpatti. The Learned judge also refereed to quotes from the Bible to opine on conversions, and conversion stories of Goa and referred to movie scenes showing conversion, and a discussion in a City-historian’s book on Chennai how certain localities in Chennai got their names, to ultimately transfer the investigation to the CBI.
31) My comments on all these judgments were fair criticism under Section 5 of the Contempt of Courts Act. It was my bona fide belief and perception that Hon’ble Mr. Justice G.R.Swaminathan had brought in his personal political ideologies way too much into these judgments to talk of extraneous aspects beyond the facts of the case. I am well aware of the well-known fact that Hon’ble Mr. Justice G.R. Swaminathan was an RSS pracharak before he became a judge and has always maintained in conversations with the Bar that he intends to be one even after demitting office. However, when his judgements sound like RSS propaganda literature, he must expect that there will be fair criticism. And probably that is why the Learned Judge has not initiated contempt against me for criticizing the judgements. My criticism was based on my strong belief that Judges should be committed to our Indian Constitution which protects a plural Indian society and peace and harmony amongst diverse groups of people.
32) I have learnt from the Hon’ble Mr.Justice G.R.Swaminathan himself, who, while speaking to a group of young students said: (the video is online)
“Courts are no doubt temples of justice. I repeat, Courts are no doubt temples of justice. But judges are not gods. But judges think they are gods. Therefore, it is high time mirror is shown to them. And only a law critic can do that. And I therefore really wish one or two of you will become a Law Critic also. And it is a very difficult job…”
33) I have the greatest respect for the institution. The institution is greater that any judge. When somebody points out issues in the judicial or legal system, those who have the power should take corrective steps to strengthen the institution, as far as possible. That is why I speak. Contempt power should not be used to shut me up because it irritates a few. These are issues I have been speaking and writing and collecting information and filing petitions about since 2009. Since the Order dated 19.07.2022, there is visibility being given to my speeches. I most respectfully submit that I am a humble small man who is being given undue attention by virtue of these Contempt proceedings. My biggest concern is that these Contempt Proceedings should not create a “Chilling effect” on people who are working on areas of reforms in the space of judicial and legal system. Also, these proceedings must give those who are watching a perception of fairness and magnanimity in our justice delivery system.
34) There are very few people who work in the area of judicial and legal system reform. While Advocates might analyse the problems the system faces while chatting in the Court corridors, very rarely do they articulate these issues in public spaces. This is because of the inherent nature of the profession. Some organisations carry out research and data analysis to study the issues. Some advocate for better accountability and transparency. Some commentators analyse and speak on judgments and issues as they play out. Organisations like Committee for Judicial Accountability, DAKSH, Vidhi come to mind for those who work in this field. This is a serious area of study for the benefit of society.
35) I have been writing on issues like this since 2009. I would like to mention a few small areas where my information gathering and writing helped in some way. When a Madras High Court Judge allowed more than a dozen petitions to quash complaints of CBI/DVAC accused on the last date of his retirement and took the case bundles with him, I wrote about it. The High Court ordered a CBI probe which resulted in the Retired Judge returning more than a hundred case bundles to the High Court. This was reported in the Indian Express. When an office assistant of a Subordinate Court judge was suspended for not cooking fish curry to the satisfaction of the judge, I wrote about it. An enquiry was ordered and the OA was reinstated. I wrote about the arbitrary appointment and sexual harassment of counsellors in family courts in Chennai. The Principal Judge was transferred and an enquiry was ordered. Appointment of counsellors was streamlined. I wrote about sexual harassment of Women Office Assistants by a District Judge. Enquiry was ordered and he was removed. I criticized the High Court judgement that quashed the FIR against a sitting Minister. Subsequently Hon’ble Mr. Justice V.Ramasubramanian of the Hon’ble Supreme Court set aside the High Court Order and re-instated the criminal case. Our country does not protect Whistleblowers. Therefore, victims and/or people who need help from within, or informants who seek to correct the wrongs they see are unable to come forward openly. Hence, they approach me with relevant information. I make my enquiries before I write or speak on the issue. My work has helped a large number of people, eventhough it may cause irritation to some.
36) The common aim of all is to strengthen the system. I have no intention or malice towards the institution or any individual Judge. It is necessary for Free Speech, free Opinions, free Thoughts to be protected so that the Judiciary can also benefit from a variety of opinions. Afterall the Judiciary is to protect the ordinary citizen from State repression and actions and is seen as the ‘sentinel on the qui vie’.
37) I respectfully say, this entire episode originated with a Learned Judge getting irritated with my comments on Social-Media. I respectfully submit that social media – twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc. – these are citizens’ spaces where citizens opine, express, articulate and discuss. Citizens do not have platforms and mics like politicians do, tv cameras like tv journalists do, newspapers like print journalists do or court reports like judges do. Citizens engage and participate in democratic processes through social media platforms. They are the new-age versions of ‘tea-kadais’ or tea-shops or under-the-banyan-tree gatherings of our culture. As with all things in society, these are larger and more effective than the older tea-shops. But the concept remains the same – one of creating common spaces for citizens to engage with democratic processes. It is but natural that those wielding power will be at the receiving end of criticism. The only difference between the tea kadai and the social media is that the tea kadai discussions probably don’t reach the ears of the powerful fast enough. But in the case of social media, the powerful have the choice to follow and listen in on the conversations. They also have the choice to participate or comment; ignore or counter. The authorities are empowered to know what the citizens are discussing thanks to social media. Now it is for the authorities to choose whether they get irritated by what they hear, or whether they choose to use what they hear as feedback to improve the systems they have control over. But a new-tech platform ought not to be used as an excuse to clamp down on free speech, thought and opinion. The Constitution lays down the only reasons on which speech, thought and opinion of citizens can be restricted. And just because authorities don’t like the new tech platform, it is not a constitutionally permitted reason to restrict free speech beyond what is constitutionally permitted and what is absolutely necessary for the good of the country.
38) Lord Denning in Regina v. Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Ex parte Blackburn,  2 W.L.R. 1204 observed as follows.
“Let me say at once that we will never use this jurisdiction as a means to uphold our own dignity. That must rest on surer foundations. Nor will we use it to suppress those who speak against us. We do not fear criticism, nor do we resent it. For there is something far more important at stake. It is no less than freedom of speech itself. It is the right of every man, in Parliament or out of it, in the Press or over the broadcast, to make fair comment, even outspoken comment on matters of public interest. Those who comment can deal faithfully with all that is done in a court of justice. They can say that we are mistaken, and our decisions erroneous, whether they are subject to appeal or not. All we would ask is that those who criticise us will remember that, from the nature of our office, we cannot reply to their criticisms. We cannot enter into public controversy. Still less into political controversy. We must rely on our conduct itself to be its own vindication. Exposed as we are to the winds of criticism, nothing which is said by this person or that, nothing which is written by this pen or that, will deter us from doing what we believe is right; nor, I would add, from saying what the occasion requires, provided that it is pertinent to the matter in hand. Silence is not an option when things are ill done.”
39) It is therefore prayed that this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to take this Affidavit on record, note my deepest respect for the judiciary and discharge me and close these contempt proceedings, and thereby render justice.
Signed at Madurai on this the 15th day of September, 2022.
This affidavit was filed before a Division Bench comprising Justices B Pugalenthi and GR Swaminathan in Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court today.