When I was Chief Justice of the Madras High Court one day I was sitting in my chamber during the lunch interval when 2 senior judges who were known to be very upright, and were sitting on the same bench, came to meet me.
They were very upset and told me that a leaflet had been distributed in the High Court calling them fools, crooks etc. They showed me a copy of that leaflet, on reading which I started laughing. This made them more angry, and they said ” Chief, we have been insulted, but you are laughing “.
At this I replied ” Look, you chaps better learn to ignore all this, or you will get blood pressure “. Then I said that either the allegations were true, in which case they deserved the criticism, or they were false, in which case they are best ignored. Since these 2 judges were known to be very upright, the allegations in the leaflet were obviously false. So I told them it was best to ignore them. In a democracy so many things are said, and notice need not be taken of all of them.
I mentioned about an English newspaper ‘ Daily Mirror ‘ which called the judges of the House of Lords who gave a certain verdict ( in the Spy catcher case ) ‘ You fools ‘, showing their photographs upside down. Mr. Fali Nariman, the eminent Indian lawyer, who was in London at that time, asked Lord Templeman, who was one of the judges on that bench why they did not issue contempt notice to the newspaper. Lord Templeman smiled, and said English judges do not take notice of all this.
After hearing me, the 2 judges, who were earlier furious, began smiling, and they tore up the leaflet and threw it into the waste paper basket.
I told them that this was an occupational hazard for judges, and they should develop a thick skin, otherwise it would impair their health. If they issue a contempt notice the matter would be further aggravated and may drag on for weeks or months, causing further tension to them, but if they do not, the matter would be forgotten the next day.
They took my advice, and the matter was forgotten the next day
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own]