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Supreme Court Holds 3 Persons Guilty Of Contempt Of Court

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The Supreme Court on Monday in a suo moto contempt case held three people guilty of contempt of court for making scandalous allegations against the judges of the Court.

The contempt proceedings were initiated against Shri Vijay Kurle, State President of Maharashtra and Goa of the Indian Bar Association, Shri Rashid Khan Pathan, National Secretary of the Human Rights Security Council and Shri Nilesh Ojha, President of Indian Bar Association for their complaint alleging scandalous remarks against the judges of the Supreme Court.

The above named contemnors have alleged that

  • Shri Nedumpara was posting articles against Shri F. S. Nariman, a senior advocate who happens to be the father of Justice R. F. Nariman.  It is alleged that therefore there was a direct conflict of interest and Justice R.F Nariman was disqualified from hearing the case involving Shri Nedumpara.
  • That Justice Nariman had “misused his power to use material outside the court record and received by personal knowledge without disclosing its source” and therefore, his action was against earlier judgments of this Court and amounted to contempt of this Court
  • The object of Justice Nariman while taking action against Shri Nedumpara was “not eally to cleanse or purify legal profession or to protect the dignity and majesty of justice but to silence the advocates who appear for his opponents, so that the litigation could be won on a different turf.”
  • The Bench of Justice Nariman has passed orders in wilful disobedience of law and committed contempt of court, that the judges deliberately and conveniently ignored certain portions of the judgment cited, that they deliberately misinterpreted the orders, that they deliberately ignored the settled legal position, that the judges acted with ulterior motive to help the accused.

Acting upon the suo moto case, the division bench of Justice Deepak Gupta & Justice Aniruddha Bose, observed that the contemnors have not denied that they are the authors of the letters which are signed by them. The bench observed that the contemnors have raised the following preliminary issues:-

  • That the Bench of Justice R. F. Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran could not have taken cognizance of the case because the case was not assigned to them by the Chief Justice and that both the Judges acted as Judge in their own cause. 
  • That the Bench has not suo motu taken notice of the contempt and therefore the Registry cannot treat it as a suo motu petition.
  • That even in suo motu contempt proceedings the consent of the Attorney General is necessary.
  • That the proper procedure of framing a charge is not followed because the defects at the initial stage cannot be cured by later orders/developments.
  • That the Judges were bound to disclose the source of information.

The bench while dealing with the aforesaid issues observed that the Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of the Supreme Court, 1975 provides for 3 ways for initiating contempt proceedings. The first is suo motu, the second is on a petition made by the Attorney General or the Solicitor General, and the third is on the basis of a petition made by any person and where criminal contempt is involved then the consent of the Attorney General or the Solicitor General is necessary.

As far as suo motu petitions are concerned, there is no requirement for taking consent of anybody because the Court is exercising its inherent powers to issue notice for contempt said the bench.

Judges in their own Cause: – the bench observed that after issuing notice the bench directed that the matter be placed before Hon’ble the Chief Justice for placing before the appropriate bench.  This is valid and proper procedure and the bench did not act as judge in their own cause. Only notice was issued and thereafter the matter was assigned to this bench.

Source of information:- The bench while dealing with this issue observed that, the disclosure of the information is made in the order itself where it is clearly recorded that the action has been taken on the basis of the letter sent by the President of the Bombay Bar Association and the President of the Bombay Incorporated Law Society to the President of India and the Chief Justice of India in response to the complaints made by the alleged contemnors.  The source of information is the letter sent by the Bombay Bar Association and the President of the Bombay Incorporated Law Society, as is apparent from the order initiating contempt proceedings. Thus, the bench found no merit in this plea.

Freedom to Criticize:- the bench observed that every citizen is entitled to criticise the judgments of this Court and Article 19 of the Constitution which guarantees the right of free speech. However, no party has the right to attribute motives to a Judge or to question the bona fides of the Judge or to raise questions with regard to the competence of the Judge. Judges are part and parcel of the justice delivery system.

The bench further observed that the relationship between the Bench and the Bar should be a cordial relationship with mutual   respect for each other. Lawyers who try to browbeat or threaten judges have to be dealt with firmly and there can be no ill­founded sympathy for such lawyers. Such lawyers do nothing to help the legal fraternity much less the Bar.

The Court after going through all the written arguments and the pleadings, other than saying that the Judges had misinterpreted the judgments of this Court or had ignored them or that Justice R.F. Nariman was biased, held that there is no material placed on record to support this defence.  The allegations are also scurrilous and scandalous and such allegations cannot be permitted to be made against the Judges of highest Court of the country.

The court held all three people guilty of contempt of court and the case is now to be heard on 1st of May, 2020 on issue of sentence via video conferencing.

-India Legal Bureau

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