Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of Sonia Gokani and N.V. Anjaria, JJ., while rejecting the unconditional apology of the Yatin Oza, observed that,

“Entire gamut of facts when dispassionately and objectively viewed, we are unable to accept these words as true words of remorse and contrition and therefore, request to accept apology even if termed as unqualified, cannot be acceded to.”

Gambling Den

Respondent Yatin Narendra Oza is the President of the Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association and was designated as a Senior Advocate of the Bar and in a press conference, he uttered certain statements showing the institution of the Gujarat High Court in very low esteem and terming it as a gambling den.

Suo Motu Notice

On 9-06-2020, suo motu notice was issued taking cognizance by way of the said act, utterances, statement and representations under the Article 215 of the Constitution and under the Cotempt of Courts Act, 1971.

Notice under Section 17 of the Contempt of Courts Act came to be issued to the respondent which was accompanied by the order and the entire material on record.

On 10-06-2020, Full Court of the Gujarat High Court unanimously resolved that proceedings for cancellation/withdrawal of conferment of designation of senior advocate to Yatin Oza be initiated forthwith.

On 18-07-2020, Full Court ended up with the decision.

Disentitled to continue to be worthy of Senior Advocate Designation

Full Court taking view that the President of the Advocates’ Association and the Senior Advocate was guilty of the conduct which has disentitled him to continue to be worthy of the designation of the Senior Advocate, the Full Court had reviewed its earlier decision dated 25th September, 1999 designating him as Senior Advocate and recalled the said decision.

Unqualified Apology

Respondent on 11-08-2020, filed an additional affidavit reiterating that he had no intention whatsoever of scandalizing or lowering the authority of the High Court and further requested to accept the unqualified apology he was tendering.

Section 12 of the Contempt of Court Act

Court while considering the materials on record referred to Section 12 of the Contempt of Court Act which deals with the punishment for contempt of courts while considering the issue whether the apology by a contemnor could be accepted or rejected.

It is not sine qua non to hold a person guilty before the apology is accepted as the provision of the Contempt of Courts Act itself permits both eventualities as mentioned above in Section 12 of the said Act, to discharge an alleged contemnor, if apology is tendered before further proceeding with the matter or for remission of punishment at the end of full fledged trial/proceedings.

“…a deliberate attempt to scandalize the Court which would shake the conscience of the litigating public in the system would cause a very serious damage to the name of the judiciary.”

Court while relying on a nuber of cases, relied on L.D. Jaikwal v. State of U.P, (1984) 3 SCC 405, wherein the Court was more than emphatic that merely because the appellant tendered his apology, he should not go unpunished, otherwise all the persons would intimidate a Judge by make grossest imputation against him, scandalize him and later tender formal empty apology, which costs him practically nothing.

Bench in the present case discharged the respondent on not being satified with the apology.

Not only the present strength of the Bar and Bench and the members of Registry but all those who have in the past 60 years have given their toil and blood to this institution to bring it to the present level, ought to have been regarded.

Further the Court observed that soon after the notice of contempt was issued by this court on 9-06- 2020, the respondent approached the Supreme Court seeking the quashment of notice and although it is right of every litigant to approach the highest court of the country against any action of the court below, this aspect is to be examined when the timings of tendering the apology assumes importance.

Weapon of Unconditional Apology

Bench observed that every time scurrilous remarks against the Judges and the institution are made and when he realises that there is no escape route, the weapon of unconditional apology comes to his rescue.

A clear and loud message is a must to be sent that we are open to every healthy criticism respecting the fundamental right of freedom of expression and at the same time, we are obligated not to permit any attempt to tarnish the image of the Institution.

Therefore Court while refusing to accept Advocate Yatin Oza’a unconditional apology and denying to re-confer him Senior Designation, stated that

“To accept any apology for the conduct of this kind and to condone it would tantamount to a failure on the part of the High Court as an institution of the judiciary to uphold the majesty of the law, the dignity of the institution and to maintain the confidence of people in the judiciary.” [Suo Motu v. Yatin Narendra Oza, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 1175, decided on 26-08-2020]

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Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Sandeep Sharma, J. contemplated the petition filed under Section 12 of Contempt of Courts Act, where the petitioner prayed for punishing the respondent for willful disobedience of judgment passed by the Court.

The factual matrix of the case was that a case was filed against the respondent under Section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act for dishonor of cheque, for which he was held guilty and the respondent undertook that he will make payments of the entire amount of compensation, after which the Court had compounded the offence and set aside the conviction. Respondent was sentenced for a month and compensation was also levied against him. The aforesaid judgment of conviction was upheld by learned Sessions Judge; subsequently, the respondent approached the Court by way of Criminal Revision under Section 397 CrPC and prayed to set aside judgments of conviction recorded by learned Courts below.

Court in the revision application considered the undertaking given by the respondent that he would pay the amount of compensation before a particular date and also deposited 15% of the cheque amount with the Himachal Pradesh State Legal Services Authority, proceeded to compound the offence and set aside the impugned judgments of conviction and sentence recorded by learned Courts below. Since the respondent failed to honor the undertaking given to Court, complainant had approached the Court in the instant proceedings, seeking appropriate action against the respondent for willful disobedience of judgment.

The respondent had tendered an unconditional apology for the disobedience on his part. It had been categorically stated that on account of non-compliance of the direction issued in the judgment rendered, the respondent had undergone imprisonment for one month. He further submitted that on account of financial constraints he was not in a position to fulfill his undertaking. The counsel for the respondent V.S. Chauhan submitted that the respondent had completed the tenure of his imprisonment. Hence, leniency was sought related to further consequences of default.  He further contended that since the respondent had already suffered for more than one month and appropriate remedy under law, was available to the complainant for the realization of his money, no fruitful purpose would be served in case of action, if any, was taken against the respondent.

The Court, found that in judgment by the Court had ordered that in the event of non-fulfillment of the solemn undertaking furnished by the respondent to the Court, judgment of conviction and sentence would automatically revive and separate proceedings for violation of undertaking would be initiated against the respondent in terms of provisions contained under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. But since the respondent, on account of his non-fulfillment of the undertaking, had already undergone imprisonment for one month and the complainant has a separate /specific remedy under Section 421 CrPC, for realization of amount of compensation awarded by learned trial Court, the Court saw no reason to proceed against the respondent in the instant proceedings. Further, it had been specifically stated in the reply that the respondent was not in a position to fulfill the undertaking.

The Court further noted that in Chintala Symala v. Chintala Venkata Satyanarayan Rao, (2008) 10 SCC 711, the Supreme Court had held that “We do not find any ground to modify the quantum of maintenance. However, as the contemnor has expressed his inability to pay the amount of maintenance in terms of the order passed by this Court, we do not consider it appropriate to proceed with the contempt case. At the same time, we consider it just and expedient to recall order.”

Hence, the Court decided to drop the charges on the decision rendered by the Supreme Court. Contempt notice issued to the respondent was discharged.[Dinesh Kumar Nanda v. Ramesh Ranta, 2019 SCC OnLine HP 1348, decided on 27-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Bench comprising of Valmiki J. Mehta, J. dismissed an application for recalling of its earlier order, whereby the appeal was dismissed and 3 year time period was granted to him to vacate the suit premises. Notice under Section 340 CrPC was also issued to the applicant for falsely denying on oath; along with a notice of contempt against him.

The applicant filed the application against an earlier order in which his appeal was dismissed as not pressed, on the ground that his earlier counsel cheated and defrauded him by taking signatures on an affidavit of undertaking to vacate the suit premises. Applicant also filed complaint with the BCI against the earlier advocate.

The Court stated that it is not unaware of the practice of dishonest litigants to make false allegations against an earlier counsel. The Court refused to believe that a literate litigant who has contested the case before it as well as the lower court, did not know the terms of the earlier order for around 3 years, and only came to know about it after the time period allotted to vacate the property expired. It also noted that the status of every case is available to be known at all times by the litigants, by inspection of the court file. Further, in view of the proceedings being an abuse of the process of law, and which also maliciously target the earlier advocate, the application was dismissed with costs of Rs. 2 lakhs. A notice under Section 340 CrPC was also issued to the applicant for falsely denying the contents of an affidavit on oath. Also, a contempt notice was issued against the applicant, in spite of him being 84 years old, to act upon gross dishonesty, irrespective of age. [Bachan Singh Kumar v. State, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 8188, decided on 05-05-2017]