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Supreme Court: Holding advocate Mathew Nedumpara guilty of contempt, the bench of RF Nariman and Vineet Saran, JJ has barred Nedumpara from practicing as an advocate in the Supreme Court for one year.

The Court had also sentenced Nedumpara to three months in jail, it, however,  suspended the sentence taking note of the unconditional apology tendered by him as also his undertaking that he will never attempt to browbeat any judge either in the Supreme Court or the Bombay High Court.

The bench, meanwhile, issued a fresh contempt notice to Nedumpara and three others for scandalous allegations against both the judges of the bench.

Noticing that serious allegations have been levelled against both the members of the bench in a letter which was received by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and other judges of the Court, the Bench requested the CJI to constitute an appropriate bench to hear the fresh contempt issue saying scandalous allegations have been levelled against both the members of the present bench.

The Court had, on March 12, issued notice to Nedumpara after he had argued before the Court:

“Judges of the Court are wholly unfit to designate persons as Senior Advocates, as they only designate Judges’ relatives as Senior Advocates.”

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. However, when others present in Court confirmed having heard him take the Senior Advocate’s name, he attempted to justify the same, but failed to offer any adequate explanation.

Considering that Justice Nariman is the son of Senior Advocate Fali S. Nariman, the Court said that:

“the only reason for taking the learned Senior Advocate’s name, without there being any relevance to his name in the present case, is to browbeat the Court and embarrass one of us.”

The Court also took note of various other orders that showed that it was not the first time that Nedumpara has attempted to browbeat and insult Judges of the Court. The Court said:

“In point of fact, the style of this particular advocate is to go on arguing, quoting Latin maxims, and when he finds that the Court is not with him, starts becoming abusive.”

Holding Nedumpara guilty of contempt, the Court directed that the judgment is to be circulated to the Chief Justice of every High Court in this country, the Bar Council of India, and the Bar Council of Kerala.

The contempt order was issued during the hearing of a Writ Petition that sought a second review of the judgment in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India through Secretary General, (2017) 9 SCC 766. On the said petition, the Court said:

“Even otherwise, it is settled law that an Article 32 petition does not lie against the judgment of this Court. We are also of the view that Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act, 1961 is a provision which cannot be said to be unconstitutional and the designation of Senior Advocate cannot be as a matter of bounty or as a matter of right.”


Also read the guidelines issued by the 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, RF Nariman and Navin Sinha, JJ for the system of designation of Senior Advocates in the Supreme Court as well as all the High Courts of India

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Supreme Court: The Court has stayed the Meghalaya High Court judgment holding The Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim and publisher Shoba Chaudhuri guilty of contempt. The High Court had also imposed a fine of Rs. 2 lakhs each on both the contemnors.

Backdrop

The Government of Meghalaya decided to withdraw the protocol services provided to retired Judges and their family members without consulting the High Court. The Chief Justice convened a meeting of Government Officers concerned wherein they were asked to immediately restore the protocol services to retired Judges and their family members. However, no action was taken for 2 months and consequently, a suo motu proceeding was endorsed to the Court to take up the matter. Notice was issued but since the Government remained silent, the Court passed the necessary order ordering the Government to comply with its directions within a month. This order is at heart of the controversy. Report, dated 10-12-2018, captioned “When Judges judge for themselves” were published in Shillong Times, an English daily newspaper. Referring to the aforementioned order, the Report stated,

Justice SR Sen, who is set to retire in March, wanted several facilities for the retired chief justice and judges, their spouses and children“.

Furthermore, Patricia Mukhim took the help of social media where, according to the Court, she even went to extent of mocking judicial system of this country and passed certain remarks against the Amicus Curiae which, according to the Court, insulted members of the Bar.

Meghalaya High Court Judgment

Exercising power under Article 215, the Court sentenced the contemnors to sit in the corner of the Courtroom till rising of the Court. A fine of Rs 2 lakhs each was also imposed which was to be deposited with the Registry within a week. Further, “in default of payment, both the contemnors will have to undergo 6(six) months simple imprisonment and the paper so-called ‘Shillong Times’ will automatically come to an end (banned)”

The furious Court said:

“We would like to ask whether the contemnor, Patricia Mukhim wants to control the judiciary as per her desire and will? If it is so, she is very much wrong”. 

The Bench of Mohammad Yaqoob Mir, CJ and S.R. Sen, J, further said:

“The sacred duty of the media is to publish correct news, so that the actual fact reaches the people. They are not at all entitled to write as they like and slur the image of an individual or institution. The contemnors here must remember that though, they have the right to publish news and sell their papers, but it is limited, subject to their duties. They are not supposed to file any report without understanding the background of the case or verifying the truth. Only true news should be published not the false report and if anybody violates, they are liable for defamation and contempt of Courts”.

Statement Issued by Editors Guild of India

Deeply distressed over the Meghalaya High Court judgment, the Editor’s Guild of India issued a Statement where it urged the judiciary to exercise its constitutional powers with utmost caution and care so that the role of a free media in a democracy is duly respected. It said:

“It is ironical that the judiciary which should uphold press freedom has instead issued an order that militates against freedom of expression.”

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Holding advocate Mathew Nedumpara guilty of contempt, the bench of RF Nariman and Vineet Saran, JJ has issued notice to Nedumpara as to the punishment to be imposed upon him for committing contempt in the face of the Court. Notice returnable within two weeks from today. The Court said that the conduct of this kind deserves punishment which is severe and though it could have punished Nedumpara by this order itself, it was issuing notice in the interest of justice.

Nedumpara had argued before the Court:

“Judges of the Court are wholly unfit to designate persons as Senior Advocates, as they only designate Judges’ relatives as Senior Advocates.”

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. However, when others present in Court confirmed having heard him take the Senior Advocate’s name, he attempted to justify the same, but failed to offer any adequate explanation

Considering that Justice Nariman is the son of Senior Advocate Fali S. Nariman, the Court said that:

“the only reason for taking the learned Senior Advocate’s name, without there being any relevance to his name in the present case, is to browbeat the Court and embarrass one of us.”

The Court also took note of various other orders that showed that it was not the first time that Nedumpara has attempted to browbeat and insult Judges of the Court. The Court said:

“In point of fact, the style of this particular advocate is to go on arguing, quoting Latin maxims, and when he finds that the Court is not with him, starts becoming abusive.”

Holding Nedumpara guilty of contempt, the Court directed that the judgment is to be circulated to the Chief Justice of every High Court in this country, the Bar Council of India, and the Bar Council of Kerala, through the Secretary General, within a period of four weeks from today.

The contempt order was issued during the hearing of a Writ Petition that sought a second review of the judgment in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India through Secretary General, (2017) 9 SCC 766. On the said petition, the Court said:

“Even otherwise, it is settled law that an Article 32 petition does not lie against the judgment of this Court. We are also of the view that Section 16(2) of the Advocates Act, 1961 is a provision which cannot be said to be unconstitutional and the designation of Senior Advocate cannot be as a matter of bounty or as a matter of right.”

[National Lawyers’ Campaign for Judicial Transparency v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 411, decided on 12.03.2019]

To read the guidelines issued by the 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, RF Nariman and Navin Sinha, JJ for the system of designation of Senior Advocates in the Supreme Court as well as all the High Courts of India, click here.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Madan B. Lokur, S. Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta, JJ., addressed a petition concerning the defiance of the Court orders in regard to the sealing operations by a Member of Parliament.

The learned Amicus Curiae, Ranjit Kumar filed a report in the Court which stated that Manoj Tewari, being a Member of Parliament acted in defiance of the Apex Court’s order by breaking the seal of premises during the sealing operations being conducted in accordance to the orders of the Court.

Therefore, by taking into consideration the report of the monitoring committee in which it was stated that there had been violation of orders of the Court and interference in the administration of justice which is clearly Contempt of Court. The Bench, in order of the Contempt of Court, issued a notice to the contemnor and asked to return on 25-09-2018.

Further, learned counsel who appeared on behalf of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation stated that he would like to take instructions from the East Delhi Municipal Corporation which had filed an FIR against the contemnor and was also conducting the sealing operations. [M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, Sealing In Re; 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1615, order dated 19-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Delhi High Court took suo motu cognizance of violence and vandalism against members of the Delhi Bar. The Bar in it’s resolution dated 23rd January, 2018 and 22nd January, 2018 mentioned that the Counsel who were victimised were so victimised because they were appearing as counsel for a lady advocate.

The Court noted that there was shocking similarity in the design and manner of the execution of the incidents of violence and vandalism and hence, opined that the incidents could not be treated as separate incidents. The court noted that FIRs have been filed in relation to the incidents but even after a month, minimal steps have been taken by the police in providing assistance and carrying out investigation. The Court, stating that such violence to thwart legal assistance in pending cases is tantamount to criminal contempt of court. In view of above observations, the Court invoked it’s suo motu jurisdiction to call upon an immediate report from the Delhi Police. Also, it directed the matter to be treated as a writ in public interest. [Court on it’s own motion v. Commissioner of Police, Delhi, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 7221, decided on 29.01.2018]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The Court was forced to adjourn the contempt case against Vijay Mallya as the Government failed to produce him before the Court. Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for Centre told the Court that Vijay Mallya’s extradition proceedings being conducted in UK Court and would most likely end by December 4.

On 09.05.2017, the bench of A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit, JJ had held Vijay Mallya guilty of disobeying the Orders passed by this Court in not disclosing full particulars of the assets and said that though Vijay Mallya has not filed any reply to the Contempt Petition nor had he appeared in person but it necessary to give him one more opportunity and also hear him on the proposed punishment and hence, he should personally appear before the Court.

A consortium of banks sought relief from the Court after Vijay Mallya, who owes more than Rs. 9000 crores to the banks, instead of repaying his debts, transferred a huge sum of $40 million to his children. It was alleged by the banks that said transfer was not only in contempt of the Orders passed by the Karnataka High Court but was also an attempt to subvert the Course of Justice by diverting the funds to shield them from ongoing recovery proceedings.

Source: ANI

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha. JJ., held that a wrong understanding of award does not amount to wilfull disobedience or contempt of the Court.

It was the Petitioners’ contention e that the Respondents had not discharged the wages that the jounalist and non-journalist employees were entitled to, as per the Majithia Wage Board Award, constituted under Section 9 of The Working Jounalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955. The recommendations of the Board were notified by the Central Government and accepted and upheld by the Court as a valid and legitimate in its approach. The Petitioners also alleged that the employees who raised their voice for the implementation of the Award, were silenced by arbitrary transfers or termination. The Labour Commission Reports suggested that the Award was implemented fully in some states, partially in some others and not at all in some. It also listed the reasons for non-implementation which ranged from employees’ voluntary waver to financial constraints and from jurisdiction excluding contractual employees to variable pay which was not accounted for the purpose of calculating other allowances.  The Petitioners submitted that such reasons were not justified as the Act specified that only more beneficial and favourable rates may be accepted if the notified wages are departed.

The respondents submitted that the issues contested in this petition were not dealt with in the previous judgment, which upheld the validity of the recommendations and the jurisdiction of the same could not be exceeded to allege contempt of court. The Court accepted the Respondents’ contention and relied upon a number of judgments to reach the conclusion that the newspaper establishments could not be liable for contempt in the absence of wilful or deliberate intention to commit the same. After clarifying the said award, the Court said that it would be better to resolve such complaints by resorting to the enforcement and remedial machinery provided under the 1955 Act rather than approaching the Courts. [Avishek Raja v. Sanjay Gupta, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 669, decided on 19-06-2017]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The vacation bench of D.Y. Chandrachud and S.K. Kaul, JJ refused to grant interim bail to Justice C.S. Karnan who was arrested yesterday in Coimbatore after being on a run for over a month.

On 09.05.2017, the 7-Judge Bench of Jagdish Singh Khehar, CJ and Dipak Misra, J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur, PC Ghose and Kurian Joseph, JJ, found Justice Karnan guilty of contempt of court and imposed 6 months’ imprisonment upon him. His advocate Mathew J Nedumpara said that the Court had all the powers and should grant the interim bail to Justice Karnan till the reopening of the Court. However, the vacation bench said that it could not override the decision of a 7-judge bench and hence it could neither grant interim bail nor suspend the 6 months’ sentence awarded to him for contempt of court.

Source: PTI

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Supreme Court Registrar refused to list Justice C.S. Karnan’s plea for recall of the order awarding him 6 months imprisonment for contempt of court. The Registrar noticed that the proceedings before the 7-judge bench were decided on merits and after due consideration, it was held that Justice C S Karnan had committed contempt of the gravest nature resulting in finding of guilt and was sentenced to an imprisonment of six months. The said findings have since attained finality, hence, the present writ petition is not maintainable. The relief if any lies some where else.

In plea filed by his lawyer Mathews J Nedumpara, Justice Karnan said that under the constitutional scheme, High Courts are not subordinate to the Supreme Court; High Courts are as much independent as the Supreme Court is, though their orders could be judicially challenged in the Supreme Court, the latter being a Court of Appeal and hence, he could not be held guilty of contempt of court. He said that the Contempt of Courts Act was a cathartic jurisprudence which belonged to the Dark Ages, the era of inquisition and torture, distinct from the classical Roman Law which constitutes the foundation of the modern jurisprudence.

After Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the plea, his lawyers had claimed that a representation has been made to the President seeking suspension of the Supreme Court order sentencing him to six months imprisonment for contempt of court under Article 72 of the Constitution. However, the President’s office said that it was not aware of any such representation.

Source: PTI

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 7-Judge Bench of Jagdish Singh Khehar, CJ and Dipak Misra, J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur, PC Ghose and Kurian Joseph, JJ, found Justice C.S. Karnan, the sitting Judge of Calcutta High Court, guilty of contempt of court and imposed 6 months’ imprisonment upon him and as a consequence, he was barred from performing any administrative or judicial functions. The Court said that Justice Karnan’s actions constitute contempt of this Court, and of the judiciary of the gravest nature.

The Court had on 01.05.2017, directed that Justice Karnan may not be in a fit medical condition, to defend himself, in the present proceedings and hence he should be medically examined, before proceeding further. Following which Justice Karnan had not only refused to let the medical team examine him but also awarded 5 years imprisonment to the 7 members of the Bench along with R. Banumathi, J under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 for harassing a Dalit Judge by initiating a suo mot contempt proceeding against him and directing a medical examination. He had earlier barred the 8 Judges from travelling abroad and had suggested that they resign in the interest of the nation.

Noticing that the incident of contempt includes public statements and publication of orders made by the contemnor, which were highlighted by the electronic and print media, the Court directed that  no further statements made by him should be published hereafter.

Justice Karnan, who is a sitting judge of Calcutta High Court, had written letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to take actions against the corrupt sitting and retired Judges of the Supreme Court and Madras High Court when he was a Judge of the Madras High Court and had passed an injunction against his own transfer orders. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had asked the Supreme Court to take suo motu action against the Judge to set an example. The Court hence, initiated the proceedings against him on 08.02.2017. [In Re: Justice C. S. Karnan, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 562, order dated 09.05.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 7-judge bench of J.S. Khehar, CJ and Dipak Misra, J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur, P.C. Ghose and Kurian Joseph, JJ declined the requests of Justice C.S.Karnan to be permitted to discharge judicial and administrative duties after he finally appeared before the bench in the suo motu contempt proceedings initiated against him.

The Court asked him whether he affirms the contents of the letters, written by him and whether he would like to withdraw the allegations. Since he did not respond, in any affirmative manner, one way or the other, the Court decided to proceed with the matter only after receipt of his written response. Hence, the Court asked him to respond to the factual position indicated in the various letters, addressed by him to this Court, within four weeks.

The Court had earlier, on 10.03.2017, issued a bailable warrant of Rs.10,000, in the nature of a personal bond, to ensure the presence of Justice Karnan after he repeatedly failed to appear before the Court.

The bench directed Justice Karnan to appear on 01.05.2017. [In Re: Justice C.S. Karnan, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 342, order dated 31.03.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: While dismissing a petition presented to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the accused for wilful disobedience of Karnataka High Court’s order in Muslim Jamath Committee v. Karnataka State Board Of Wakfs, Writ Petition No. 8589 of 2016, the Division Bench of H.G. Ramesh, K.N. Phaneendra, JJ. held that a petition to initiate action for civil contempt can be presented only by an aggrieved party.

In the aforesaid writ petition, the Court had allowed the petitioner to hold Uroos celebrations, provided that the expenses were borne by the petitioner itself. The petitioner was barred from taking any contributions from the devotees. The Court had also directed the third respondent, Administrator of Masjid, to ensure that no body collects any contributions from the devotees unlawfully. Later, the complainant, in his personal capacity, filed a contempt petition alleging that the accused had forcefully collected amount from devotees in wilful disobedience of Court’s order. The complainant was working as the Administrator of Masjid on the date of Court’s order, but on the date of presentation of the Contempt Petition, he was working as Assistant Director of Land Records.

The court noted that except where the Court has given liberty to third parties to initiate action for contempt of court, a petition to initiate action for civil contempt can be presented only by an aggrieved party. Since the complainant was not a party to the order in his personal capacity, and he had presented the contempt petition in his personal capacity, he cannot be said to be a ‘party aggrieved’. Moreover, in the order, no liberty was given to any third party to initiate action for contempt of court. The petition, therefore, was accordingly dismissed. [Shamshuddin v. Sri Haris M.Y., 2016 SCC OnLine Kar 6468, November 9, 2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: While relying upon the decision of the Full Bench of Supreme Court in Union of India v. Oswal Woollen Mills Ltd., (1984) 2 SCC 646, the Division Bench of H.G. Ramesh, K.N. Phaneendra, JJ. held that if no time limit is fixed for compliance of an order, an action for contempt of court is not maintainable. The complainant had filed a petition to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the accused for disobeying Karnataka High Court’s order in N Rajanna v. State of Karnataka, Writ Petition No. 22179 of 2014, wherein, the respondent was directed to consider the request of the petitioner for regularization of his services. However, no time was fixed for compliance of the order.

The Court referred to the Supreme Court’s observations in Oswal Woollen Mills Ltd. wherein it was held that where time is not fixed for taking action, failure to take action in the matter is not contempt, and thereby held that the petition is not maintainable in law and accordingly dismissed it. [N. Rajanna v. Rajaneesh Goel, 2016 SCC OnLine Kar 6469, decided on October 25, 2016]