Above: Justice JK Maheshwari (right) of the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court (left)
A justice in an Ujjain court faces a criminal contempt charge for hearing a case despite the Madhya Pradesh High Court transferring the matter to an Indore court
~By Rakesh Dixit in Bhopal
Madhya Pradesh has witnessed numerous instances of contempt of court proceedings against top bureaucrats, police officers, politicians and lawyers. And these include judges, too. However, a judge facing a probe for disobeying an order of the state High Court is unique.
On October 3, Justice JK Maheshwari of the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court was in for a surprise when a case regarding a housing society was put up before him again. The Court was hearing a petition filed under Section 482 of the CrPC demanding quashing of an order on August 19, 2015. Justice Maheshwari discovered that the Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC), Ujjain, had allowed compounding of offences in the case despite the Indore bench transferring the case to JMFC, Indore, on August 17, 2015. As per the higher court’s order, JMFC Ujjain was to transmit the record about the case within a week.
“This is illegal without jurisdiction in gross violation and ignorance of the High Court order,” Justice Maheshwari remarked and directed an inquiry to be conducted against all those involved, including the lower court judge. He also quashed the compounding order given by the trial court and ordered that the case be immediately transferred to Indore JMFC. The petitioners were asked to appear before the Indore court, where the case had been transferred, by December 3. The petition for compounding of charges was disposed of with costs of Rs 10,000 on nine respondents.
Justice Maheshwari also ruled that the said inquiry be concluded within three months after which contempt proceedings could be initiated against those found guilty of violating the High Court order of transfer of the case.
Holding the JMFC, Ujjain’s order as functus officio (without official authority), Justice Maheshwari directed the Ujjain district judge to conduct the probe. He, however, asked the inquiry officer “to afford an opportunity to be heard to all involved, including the judge” (JMFC, Ujjain). “It is directed that upon taking the reply of the accused persons and taking explanation from the Judge who passed the order, an inquiry be concluded within three months and the finding of the said inquiry be referred to the High Court for perusal,” the order said.
If the inquiry finds that the High Court order has been violated, a reference is to be made against the guilty for registration of a criminal contempt case before the Court. “Separate proceedings be drawn and duly registered by the bench registry and be placed for hearing before appropriate bench,” Justice Maheshwari wrote in the order.
Advocate Vijay Assudani had appeared on behalf of his client, Ghanshyam Patel, a member of the Bhanushali Grih Nirman Sanstha Maryadit, on October 3 before the High Court bench. The housing society had moved a petition against the Madhya Pradesh government and nine others. Justice Maheshwari noted that the society had got a stay in the court of the JMFC, Ujjain on further proceedings in the case on January 23, 2015.
The government advocate moved the Indore bench of the High Court to get the stay vacated. The Court issued notices to the respondents but they did not appear before it. On August 17, 2015, the Court passed an order directing that the case pending in the court of JMFC, Ujjain be transferred to JMFC, Indore. The concerned parties were also asked to appear before the JMFC, Indore on September 1, 2015.
However, the JMFC, Ujjain ignored the Court order and passed an order for compounding of the case already transferred to another court. The inquiry report is expected by December 3.