Madhya Pradesh High Court: The Division Bench of Sheel Nagu and Anand Pathak, JJ., decided upon a petition which was in reference under Section 15(2) of The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 sent by Judicial Magistrate First Class, Datia in respect of the conduct of respondent.

A criminal case was going on before the concerned trial Court in which accused were facing charge of offence under Sections 452, 294, 323/34 and 506(part II) of IPC. On 10-02-2021 case was fixed for prosecution evidence. Respondent -Pankaj Mishra who was a practicing Advocate at District and Sessions Court, apparently appeared for complainant, although at the time of appearance he did not file Vakalatnama on behalf of complainant nor any application under Section 301 of Cr.P.C. was filed. It appeared that the prosecution witness went out from courtroom for the time being during cross examination which was taken note of by the trial Court and matter was kept after tea break. After tea break when trial Court sought explanation of conduct of prosecution witness and asked the accused counsel for relevance of questions asked by him then counsel for the accused showed inclination to answer but sought moving of complainant counsel out of courtroom so that his defence may not be disclosed to the witness. After discussion with counsel for accused/defence, complainant and his counsel were called back. This step infuriated counsel for the complainant (respondent herein) and he made following remarks:

मुझे पंकज मिश्रा कहते हैं मेरा नाम नोट कर लीजिए I भविष्य में आपके लिए परेशानी हो जाएगी, आप ऐसे नौकरी नहीं कर पाएंगीI”

Thereafter, Court found conduct of respondent contemptuous and therefore, showed her intention to draw contempt proceedings against contemnor.

An affidavit has been filed by the respondent Pankaj Mishra on 13-09-2021 and without trying to explain the event from his perspective at the outset he tendered unconditional apology. It is his submission that in respect of alleged incident mentioned in the order-sheet dated 10-02-2021, contemnor by filing his reply at the earliest, tendered unconditional apology before the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Datia (trial Court) and denied the occurrence of any such event. He also prayed for recalling of the observation mentioned in order-sheet dated 10-02-2021. He expressed his immense respect to this Court as well as all other Courts of law and expressed his commitment to do everything to protect the dignity of judiciary.

The Court started with the quote of French Writer Vauvenargues “Emotions have taught mankind to Reason” in order to elaborate concept of Justice. The Court further went on to remind that Law is a Noble Profession and Bar and Bench are two wheels of the chariot of justice. In fact Bar is the genus from which species of Judges, Advocates, Senior Advocates and other Constitutional Legal Functionaries like Attorney General, Advocate General etc. evolve. Therefore, Bar and Bench share common platform for the cause of justice. All other professions are guided by the spirit of Service and Integrity but this profession beside this spirit, also primes Compassion, Mercy and above all Empathy.

The Court further quoted the relevant excerpts from the Supreme Court’s decision in Yatin Narendra Oza v. Khemchand Rajaram Koshthi, (2016) 6 SCC 236, D.P. Chadha v. Triyugi Narain Mishra, AIR 2001 SC 457 and Mahabir Prasan Singh v. M/s Jacks Aviation Private Ltd., AIR 1999 SC 287, etc.

The Court reiterated that Spirit of Adjudication and the role of Bar and Bench in reaching to the cause of justice and unless both the wheels do not move in tandem then casualty is Justice and nothing else.

The Court was of the opinion that, In the present case, learned Judge was a female Judge and it was expected from the Bar members that they will appreciate the multitasking performed by a lady judge while taking care of her home, family as well as work front and therefore, more thoughtfulness and sensitivity is required in this regard. Therefore, it appeared that JMFC rightly referred the matter for contempt. But at this juncture, respondent at the outset had expressed unconditional apology and keeping the quote “To err is human and to forgive is divine” in mind the Court believed that it is in the interest of cause of justice that bonhomie be revived so that matter may proceed further without causing delay and friction.

The Court issued certain directions while disposing of the petition:

  • Respondent shall not indulge in any contemptuous act in future while committing misbehavior and misconduct with any Judge of any Court of law and would not try to undermine the authority and majesty of the Court.
  • As per the undertaking he shall plant 20 saplings either in the District Court campus if space is available for plantation and if not then these saplings may be planted to any suitable place earmarked by the District Administration for plantation and shall take care of them till they grow into full fledged trees. It is expected from the respondent that he shall submit photographs by downloading the mobile application (App) prepared at the instance of High Court for monitoring the plantation through satellite/Geo-Tagging.
  • It is expected that this unfortunate event would not leave any scar over the relationship of Bar and Bench at District Court, Datia and individuals connected with the proceedings either as Judge and Lawyer would come out as better individuals from this incident and would strive to become “Healers of Society” for cause of Justice.

[In Re State of M.P. v. Pankaj Mishra, Contempt Petition Criminal No.05 of 2021, decided on 20-10-2021]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

For State: Shri MPS Raghuvanshi, Additional Advocate General and Shri Rajesh Shukla, Dy.A.G.

For respondent/contemnor: Shri J.P. Mishra, Shri P.S. Bhadoriya and Shri Dileep Awasthi

Shri Pankaj Mishra -respondent present in person

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