Why Madras HC turned down ‘Savukku’ Shankar’s request to suspend his jail term

Under the criminal law, a convicted person is allowed to seek the suspension of a jail term in cases where punishment is less than three years. However, the High Court denied Shankar’s request.
Savukku Shankar in front of the Supreme Court of India
Savukku Shankar in front of the Supreme Court of India

The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court held Youtuber and whistleblower Savukku Shankar guilty of contempt of court for his remarks saying the “entire judiciary is riddled with corruption” and sentenced him to six months in jail. The bench of Justices GR Swaminathan and B Pugalendhi held that Shankar has many contempt cases against him, but he has not shown remorse at all. 

Shankar, who is a former Tamil Nadu Vigilance department official, asked for the court to suspend his sentence, but the court denied his request. Section 389 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) allows the suspension of a sentence if the convicted person is planning to appeal the court’s decision, which means a person does not have to go to jail unless sentenced by the Supreme Court. This is mostly allowed for those sentenced to jail for three years or less. 

The High Court, however, turned down Shankar’s appeal, saying they would have considered his request had he sincerely apologised, but he has not shown remorse for his remarks and that instead, he has said that he will continue to make remarks critical of the judiciary.

“We would have closed the proceedings if the contemnor (Shankar) had realized his mistake and sincerely apologized. Far from doing so, the contemnor stuck to his position. In fact, his conduct during the last few weeks would constitute acts of contempt on their own,” the bench held. 

Justice GR Swaminathan had first initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against Shankar after observing that he had ‘crossed the Lakshman Rekha’ with one of his tweets. The judge had cited a particular tweet by Shankar, where the latter had implied that the judge had ‘met someone,’ allegedly to get a favourable verdict in the case against right-wing YouTuber Maridhas. 

Days later, a second contempt case was filed against him. This time, Justice Swaminathan said that three days after the first contempt case was filed against him, Shankar had made the new comment, “The entire higher judiciary is riddled with corruption,” on the YouTube Channel, Red Pix. This is the case in which he has now been sentenced to a six-month jail term, the maximum punishment for contempt of court.  

In its order, the bench noted that Shankar is a suspended employee of the state government, and is receiving subsistence allowance for the last thirteen years. “ He is governed by the Conduct Rules. Yet, he has been attacking all the three organs of the State in a vicious manner (sic),” the court said. 

"The contemnor (Shankar) has reiterated his resolve to continue his attack on judiciary. He has gone to the extent of stating that he can be sentenced only to a maximum of six months and that after coming out, he will focus all his attention exclusively on judges and judiciary,” the bench said. 

Citing late Justice Krishna Iyer’s observation in a 1978 case that “justice fails when judges quail,” the High Court said, “We do not propose to quail.” 

“There are occasions when judges have to be firm and stern. Shrugging off such provocations by stating that we possess broad shoulders would be seen as a sign of weakness," the bench said. 

The Madras High Court then sentenced Shankar to six months’ simple imprisonment and said that he will be lodged in Central Prison in Madurai. 

Read: Why Whistleblower-YouTuber ‘Savukku’ Shankar was sentenced to 6 months jail


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