Supreme Court: In the case where the Supreme Court Registry refused to register the application seeking recall of the order dated 04.05.2020 by which the Court sentenced advocates Vijay Kurle, Nilesh Ojha and Rashid Khan Pathan to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of 3 months each with a fine of Rs. 2000/-, the bench of L/ Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose, JJ dismissed the appeal and imposed an exemplary cost of Rs. 25, 000 on advocate Rashid Khan. While doing so the Court said,
“If the Appellant continues to file such repetitive applications in this litigation which are not maintainable, he will be visited with deterrent actions referred above such as initiation of criminal contempt proceedings or a direction to the Registry that no further applications in this litigation will be received.”
The bench of Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, JJ had on, 27.04.2020, found the 3 advocates guilty of contempt of court in the light of scandalous allegations levelled by them against Justice RF Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran.
“In a country governed by the rule of law, finality of the judgment is absolutely imperative and great sanctity is attached to the finality of the judgment. Permitting the parties to reopen the concluded judgments of this Court by filing repeated interlocutory applications is clearly an abuse of the process of law and would have far-reaching adverse impact on the administration of justice.”
It is worth noting that earlier an application was filed by the contemnors seeking recall of the judgment dated 27.04.2020. This Court was, however, of the opinion that the recall applications were not maintainable and the only proper remedy available to the contemnors is to file a Review Petition.
Hence, calling the present application an abuse of process of court, the bench said,
“The application for recall of an order by which an earlier application for recall of the judgment was dismissed is not maintainable. The only remedy open to the Appellant was to have filed a Review Petition as suggested by this Court in the order dated 04.05.2020.”
The Court held that the order dated 04.05.2020 neither suffered from the vice of lack of jurisdiction nor did it violate the principles of natural justice.
“A perusal of the order dated 04.05.2020 discloses that the Appellant and the other contemnors were heard before the applications were dismissed. Therefore, the contention of the Appellant is without any substance.”
Background of the Contempt proceedings
The basis of the contempt proceedings was two letters dated 20.03.2019 and 19.03.2019 received by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and other judges of the Court, admittedly signed by Vijay Kurle (State President of Maharashtra and Goa of the Indian Bar Association) and Rashid Khan Pathan (National Secretary of the Human Right Security Council) respectively. The Court had already discharged Mathews Nedumpara last year in September, after he denied any role in sending those complaints.
It is pertinent to note that the bench of RF Nariman and Vineet Saran, JJ had barred Nedumpara from practicing as an advocate in the Supreme Court for one year, after he had argued before the Court during a proceeding :
“Judges of the Court are wholly unfit to designate persons as Senior Advocates, as they only designate Judges’ relatives as Senior Advocates.”
He was referring to the judgment where with the intent to make the exercise of senior designation more objective, fair and transparent so as to give full effect to consideration of merit and ability, standing at the bar and specialized knowledge or exposure in any field of law, the 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, RF Nariman and Navin Sinha, JJ laid down elaborate guidelines for the system of designation of Senior Advocates in the Supreme Court as well as all the High Courts of India.
He also took the name of Senior Advocate Fali S. Nariman. When cautioned by the Court, he took his name again. Thereafter, on being questioned by the Court as to what the relevance of taking the name of Fali S. Nariman was, he promptly denied having done so.
In it’s order dated 27.04.2020, the Court found all 3 advocates guilty of contempt and said,
“When we read both the complaints together it is obvious that the alleged contemnors are fighting a proxy battle for Shri Nedumpara. They are raking up certain issues which could have been raised only by Shri Nedumpara and not by the alleged contemnors.”
On 04.05.2020, the Court sentenced all 3 to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of 3 months each with a fine of Rs. 2000/-. It further said that in default of payment of fine, each of the defaulting contemnors shall undergo further simple imprisonment for a period of 15 days.
All 3 of the advocates were not willing to argue on sentence on the ground that according to them the judgment was per incuriam and they had a right to challenge the same. The Court, hence, noticed that there was not an iota of remorse or any semblance of apology on behalf of the contemnors.
[In re Vijay Kurle, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 711, decided on 03.09.2020]