An apology should not be a "paper apology" and the "expression of sorrow" should come from the heart of the contemnor and not from his pen, the Supreme Court has said.
The observation came in a judgement of the apex court while dismissing the appeal of Meerut-based advocate Bal Kishan Giri, who was sentenced to a month-long jail term,
besides a fine of Rs 20,000, for suspecting the integrity of three judges of the Allahabad High Court.
"So an apology should not be 'paper apology' and expression of sorrow should come from the heart and not from the pen; for it is one thing to 'say' sorry, it is another to 'feel' sorry," the bench comprising justices B S Chauhan and A K Sikri said.
"The allegations made by the appellant against the three judges of the High Court are too serious, scandalous and, admittedly, sufficient to undermine the majesty of law and dignity of court and that is too without any basis.
"The appellant is a practicing advocate. Plea taken by him that he had been misguided by other advocates is an afterthought. He must have been fully aware of consequences of what he has written," the court said.
It said the apology means a "regretful acknowledgement or excuse for failure" and it should be "unquestionable in sincerity" and it can be rejected if offered belatedly to avoid the punishment.
"However, an apology should not be rejected merely on the ground that it is qualified or tempered at a belated stage if the accused makes it bona fide. A conduct which abuses and makes a mockery of the judicial process of the court is to be dealt with iron hands and no person can tinker with it to prevent, prejudice, obstructed or interfere with the administration of justice. There can be cases where the wisdom of rendering an apology dawns only at a later stage," it said.
An apology cannot be a defence, a justification or an appropriate punishment for an act which is tantamount to contempt of court, it said.
The court reduced the fine imposed on Giri from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2,000, but asked him to surrender and serve one month's jail term.