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Indian Case Summary

In Re: S. Mulgaokar vs Unknown on 21 February, 1978 – Case Summary

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In the case of “In Re: S. Mulgaokar vs Unknown” on 21 February 1978, the Supreme Court of India was confronted with a matter arising from a publication in the Indian Express newspapers dated 13th December, 1977. The case was presided over by a bench consisting of Beg, P Kailasam, and V K Iyer.

Facts of the Case

The case was initiated due to a publication in the Indian Express newspaper on 13th December 1977. The publication was perceived as an attempt to hold trials of everything and everybody by publications in newspapers, including those directed against the highest Court of Justice in the country and its pronouncements. The publication was seen as a gross distortion of what was held by the Supreme Court in the Habeas Corpus case (Additional District Magistrate, Jabalpur y. S. Shukla), presumably to serve ulterior objectives.

Issues Raised

The publication raised several issues, including the question of freedom of speech and expression, the role of the press in a democratic society, and the need for a code of judicial ethics. The publication also raised questions about the independence of the judiciary and the role of the Supreme Court in upholding the Constitution and the rule of law.

Court’s Observations

The Court observed that while freedom of speech and expression is essential for a democratic society, it must be exercised responsibly. The Court noted that the press provides the principal vehicle of expression of their views to citizens and that freedom of the press is essential for the working of democratic institutions. However, the Court also noted that this freedom must be limited and exercised responsibly.

The Court also observed that the publication contained gross distortions of the Court’s judgment in the Habeas Corpus case, which was made presumably to serve ulterior objectives. The Court noted that such distortions could damage public confidence in the judiciary and undermine the rule of law.

The Court further observed that there is a need for a code of judicial ethics to guide the conduct of judges. The Court noted that such a code, if scrupulously observed by all judges, could only enhance their independence and prestige and not injure these in any way whatsoever.

The Court also noted that while the judiciary cannot be immune from criticism, such criticism must be based on factual accuracy, logical soundness, and fairness. The Court noted that when criticism is based on obvious distortion or gross mis-statement and made in a manner which seems designed to lower respect for the judiciary and destroy public confidence in it, it cannot be ignored.


In conclusion, the Court decided to drop the proceedings without any finding against any individual. The Court emphasized the need for appropriate norms of conduct in every sphere of life and the importance of maintaining high standards of fearless, impartial, and unbending justice. The Court also underscored the importance of the judiciary in upholding the Constitution and the rule of law, and the need for the press to exercise its freedom responsibly.