Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of Sonia Gokani and N.V. Anjaria, JJ., initiated suo motu contempt proceeding of an extremely unfortunate event, wherein fingers have been raised against the High Court, Administration of High Court and Registry by irresponsible, sensational and intemperate delivery in an interview by the President of Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association — Senior Advocate Yatin Oza.
Senior Advocate Yatin Oza levelled false and contemptuous allegations of corruption, malpractices against the administration of the High Court.
President of GHCAA by calling journalists on a live press conference made serious allegations of corruption against the registry and also categorically alleged Forum shopping in no uncertain terms without any valid, significant or true basis.
Further Court noted that, he has questioned the very credibility of High Court Administration and raised fingers at some of the Honourable Judges indirectly with scandalous remarks of a few Advocates being successful in getting their matters circulated in three courts and also getting contemplated orders.
President in his “complete consciousness and with total responsibility“ as declared by him in his interview called this August Institution a ‘Gambling den’ and an Institute which caters only to the litigants with means and money power, smugglers and those who are traitors.
Broadly following are allegations made by the President in the live press conference held by him:
- corrupt practices being adopted by the registry of the High Court of Gujarat,
- undue favour is shown to high-profile industrialist and smugglers and traitors,
- The High Court functioning is for influential and rich people and their advocates,
- The billionaires walk away with order from the High Court in two days whereas the poor and non VIPs need to suffer,
- if the litigants want to file any matter in the High Court person has to be either Mr Khambhata or the builder or the company. This also was circulated in Gujarati daily Sandesh titled as ‘Gujarat HighCourt has become a gambling den – Yatin Oza’
Bench also observed that, the President without caring for the truth, riding on the wave of populism, appears to have crossed all limits by condemning recklessly the Institution.
Being aware of the consequences, he gave an open challenge to the authority of this Court in the very interview which is even worse than the very action.
Court emphasises that,
In the present times, Bench-and the Bar are duty bound to work together and discharge their respective obligations.
In times of such crisis and the need to have a coordinated functioning of the Courts, such demeaning utterances would indeed result in more aggravating and retrograding effects.
Through the framers of the Constitution, the people of this nation have given to themselves the Constitution and have reposed their faith in the courts of justice. Their confidence cannot be allowed to be diminished by contemptuous behaviour of any person.
It is in these times when attempt to shake the foundation of Judiciary is done, that the Court exercises its extraordinary powers under Article 215 of the Constitution of India to initiate actions for contempt of courts against those who attempt to undermine the authority of law and bring disrespect and disrepute to this institution by scandalising the same.
Criminal Contempt of this Court
Bench noted that President by his scandalous expressions and indiscriminate as well as baseless utterances attempted to cause damage to the prestige of the High Court and attempted to lowering the image of Administration, thus Court found him responsible for committing the criminal contempt of thus Court under Section 2(c) of Contempt of Courts Act and took cognizance of the same under Section 15 of the said Act.
Following directions have been issued by the Court:
- Office shall register the matter as Suo motu Contempt Proceedings under Article 215 of the Constitution of India read with Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act.
- Notice to be issued under Section 17 of the Contempt of Courts Act to the President.
- The case of criminal contempt under Section 15 of the said Act is statutorily permitted to be heard and decided by the Bench of not less than two Judges as provided under Section 18 of the said Act.
- Court deemed it appropriate to place before the Chief Justice consideration at the hands of the full Court whether to divest the stature of respondent under contempt, of designation of a senior Counsel under the circumstances.
[Suo Motu v. Yatin Narendra Oza, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 856 , decided on 09-06-2020]