The Supreme Court on Wednesday dropped contempt proceedings against former army chief V K Singh after he unconditionally apologised and withdrew entire statements made by him against the judiciary while reacting to the verdict on his age row.
A visibly upset 63-year-old Singh was consoled after the proceeding by his counsel Ram Jethmalani, who on his behalf stated that the former army chief was withdrawing the entire statement made by him concerning the judiciary and all other statements attributed to the court in earlier interviews on the apex court's February 10, 2012 decision on his age row.
A bench comprising justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale noted that Singh, who was present in the courtroom, "tendered the apology at the earliest opportunity without contesting it on merits".
"We accept the unqualified apology tendered by him and the contempt proceedings are accordingly dropped," the bench said and observed that "repentance is a tool which condones all sort of misdemeanour and if the apology is coming from the heart and that too from a senior advocate like Jethmalani, it (contempt proceedings) should not continue even for a second".
The apex court had on October 1 issued a notice to Singh after taking suo motu cognisance of his remarks -- against its order on his age row published on September 22 -- saying it prima facie amounts to "scandalising" and undermining the authority of the court.
Jethmalani said Singh was withdrawing the entire statement made by him on September 21 concerning the judiciary to a news agency, which was published a day after in a newspaper, and all other statements attributed to the court in earlier interviews.
Singh, who served the army for 42 years, had tendered an "unqualified apology" on November 18 to the Supreme Court for making certain remarks on its order on his age row, saying he had no intention of bringing disrepute to the institution and judges, who are like "demi-gods".
Though the contempt proceeding against the former army chief was dropped, the bench questioned him, saying though he was tendering an unqualified apology, he has been claiming that there has been erroneous reporting.
"Was there any erroneous reporting? If there was erroneous reporting, then you should have taken a different course. If you say sorry, we will close down the case," the bench said.
"Even in our order (February 10, 2012), we said the government has the highest regard for you," the bench observed.
But it took exception to his statement in the interview that "hostile lobbies were working on the judges".
The bench told Jethmalani "we are concerned with the majesty of the institution and you have assisted to hold its majesty rather than getting it in danger".
The bench said there was no need to go further as Attorney General G E Vahanvati, who is assisting the court, also expressed his satisfaction over the development in view of the statement made by Jethmalani.
"Don't enlarge the scope of this contempt proceeding," the bench said while rejecting the plea of an advocate to make submission as an intervener.
During the hearing, Jethmalani said he wanted to gift the judges the autobiography of Singh -- Courage and Conviction -- which was published recently.
The judges politely declined the offer, saying that they would ask the apex court library to the purchase the book.
"The library of this court will purchase the book. We will ask the librarian to buy the book. It is always enlightening to read the experiences of a General," the bench said.