Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT): A Division Bench of Justice L. Narasimha Reddy (Chairman) and A.K. Bishnoi (Administrative Member) took Suo Motu cognizance of the behaviour of an Advocate who made attempts to hoodwink the tribunal.

Background

Sanjiv Chaturvedi an IFS officer of Uttarakhand Cadre was on deputation to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi for some period who filed different Applications with regard to recording of ACRs and was represented by Mehmood Paracha, Advocate.

On completion of his deputation, he was repatriated to his parent cadre.

Advocate stated that the Supreme Court dismissed the SLP filed by the AIIMS, by imposing the cost of Rs 25,000. He was also informed that the adjudication before the Uttarakhand High Court and the Supreme Court was only about the power of the Chairman under Section 25 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 to stay the proceedings while dealing with an application for transfer and that issue no longer subsists, with the adjudication by the Courts.

Sanjiv Chaturvedi was flamboyant in his approach and was in fact exhibiting triumphalism in getting the order of stay passed in the transfer petition, set aside.

Adjournment | Contempt of Court

Further, the applicant i.e. Sanjiv Chaturvedi was also informed that he can argue the PTs themselves so that the issue can be given a quietus. That did not appeal to him and he went on almost browbeating the Chairman and trying to explain as to how the Tribunal should function.

At that stage, he was informed that his conduct before the Tribunal touched the border of the Contempt of Court and it is for him to choose the course of action. Thereupon, he sought adjournment.

Counsel for the respondent, Mehmood Pracha, stated that the Supreme Court dismissed the SLP filed by the AIIMS. Taking note of the said fact, he was asked to proceed with the PTs and advance the arguments which did not appeal to him.

Humiliation

Instead, Counsel Mehmood Parcha who is the respondent in the present matter, started humiliating the other side’s counsel saying that the Supreme Court has shown them their place by the imposition of Rs 25,000 costs and hence they have no right to plead before the Tribunal.

Browbeating the Chairman | Personal attack on Chairman

He created an unfortunate situation in the Court and was browbeating the Chairman through his gestures and dramatics. Seeing that his provocation was not yielding the expected results, Advocate went on to make a personal attack on the Chairman.

Further, he went on to say that he has a lot to be said about the Chairman and the proceedings should be held in camera.

Scandalising the Chairman

He was informed that he can say in the open Court whatever he intends and if that is not done, it would amount to scandalizing the Chairman. His behaviour continued in the same manner and he did not reveal anything.

The Court was full of Advocates of different standings and repeated requests were made by them to pacify the respondent but nothing affected him.

Section 25 of the Administrative Tribunals Act

It was also informed that the PTs are heard only the Chairman under Section 25 of the Act and if he i.e. the Advocate has any other suggestion, he could make it.

Yet, he continued his tirade.

In view of the above occurrence, Advocate was sent a notice requiring him to explain as to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him.

Delhi High Court took up the matter of contempt and referring to the Supreme Court decision in T. Sudhakar Prasad v. Government of Andhra Pradesh (2001) 1 SCC 516, and held that the tribunal alone has jurisdiction to hear and decide the contempt case.

The Supreme Court affirmed order in the contempt matter by rejecting SLP (Crl) No. 7850 of 2019 after the draft charge as provided by the Contempt of Courts (CAT) Rules, 1992 were framed on 19-07-2019 on the basis of the remarks and statements made by the respondent herein, in his capacity as an Advocate.

The respondent filed MA. No. 2471/2019 with three prayers viz., (i) to decide certain MAs filed in PT. No. 288/2017; (ii) to decide whether the Chairman has jurisdiction to hear the contempt case; and (iii) to pass orders in respect of draft charge dated 19-07-2019. The MAs were disposed of on 02-08-2019.

Vikramjit Banerjee, Additional Solicitor General appeared to assist the Tribunal.

Decision

Tribunal expressed that the matter falls under Rule 13(b) of the Contempt of Courts (CAT) Rules, 1992.

Criminal Contempt

Solicitor General, Vikramjit Banerjee, stated that even where an Advocate becomes emotional, during the course of hearing, there is a method of setting the things right and persistent behaviour of challenging the very authority of the Tribunal or attempting to denigrate the Chairman would clearly amount to criminal contempt.

To the suggestion made by the learned Additional Solicitor General that the matter can be given a quietus in case the respondent expresses regrets, the latter stated that he will stand by whatever he said in the Tribunal and during the course of proceedings and that there is no question of expressing regrets.

It is not uncommon that a party or his counsel whose view point is not being accepted by the Court gets agitated. Howsoever strong such feeling may be, they have to stop at a particular stage, even while making effort to drive home, their point.

Upholding the dignity of the Institution

Attacking an adjudicator or attributing motives would cut at the very root of the system.

Once the dignity and status of the Institution are compromised, it loses its relevance. The concept of Contempt of Court is evolved inter alia to protect the dignity of the Institution.

Further, the bench stated that in all respects, result in the PTs was poised in favour of the applicant himself. However, what is discerned from the beginning is that his effort was to exhibit the IFS Officer’s personality than to get the relief in accordance with the law.

Tone & Tenor of pleas

The tone and tenor of the pleas are such that the target was certainly highly placed officers and authorities. In an application for transfer, all the above-stated was totally irrelevant.

The matter reached its pinnacle when in the Open Court counsel said that the proceedings be heard in the Chamber because he has to say something about the Chairman.

Though when he was asked to say whatever he wanted to in the Open Court, he went beating around the bush and did not spell out anything.

Hoodwinked the Tribunal

Counsel and his client have hoodwinked the Tribunal at every stage and in all possible manners.

Soon after the contempt notice was issued, a contempt case was filed against the Chairman, in the Uttarakhand High Court. A Single Judge bench entertaining it issued notice. The Supreme Court stayed it.

Tribunal noted that, the attempt in the present case made to add to the personality of the applicant and his counsel and for that purpose, Tribunal became an easy target.

Further, the bench stated that it may take decades of dedicated service for an officer to be recognised for his efficiency or honesty.

For a hardworking Advocate, it would take quite some time to get recognition or fame. Unfortunately, recourse is taken by some, to short cuts, without realising that the one who prefers short cuts is bound to be cut short.The only unfortunate part of it is that severe damage is done to the Institutions, in the meanwhile

In view of the above, the tribunal held the counsel i.e. respondent herein to be guilty of Contempt of Court under Section 14 of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971.

However, there would have been every justification for the tribunal, to impose the sentence, proportionate to the acts of contempt held proved against the respondent.

However, by treating this as a first instance, he has been let off with a severe warning to the effect that if he repeats such acts in future in the Tribunal, the finding that he is guilty of Contempt of Court, in this case, shall be treated as one of the factors in the proceedings, if any, that may ensue. [Tribunal on its own motion v. Mehmood Pracha, Cr. CP No. 290 of 2019, decided on 23-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A Division Bench of Sonia Gokani and N.V. Anjaria, JJ., held that there may not be an actual interference with the course of administration of justice but it is enough if the offending publishing or act is likely or tends in any way to interfere with the administration of law.

Contempt Proceedings

Suo Motu contempt proceedings were initiated under Article 215 of the Constitution of India read with Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 where this Court issued a notice under Section 17 of the Contempt of Courts Act to respondents/alleged contemner.

Since every case of criminal contempt under Section 15 is required to be heard and determined by the bench of not less than two judges which is as per Section 18 of the said Act, the matter was placed before the Chief Justice and the same has been placed before this Court by way of a roster.

Factual Matrix

Contemner-Respondent 1 filed an anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for the offences punishable under Sections 143, 145, 332, 504, 186, 147, 153, 269 of the Penal Code and Section 13(1) of the Gujarat Epidemic Disease-19 Regulations, 2020 and Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.

On 22-06-2020, a phone call was received by the Judge on her official mobile phone from a person who introduced himself as Niranjan Patel, MLA.

Phone Call

Further, the person inquired as to why he made a phone call, he said there was one criminal case listed before the Court on that day and the Judge immediately stopped him from talking further and clearly told him that he should not have called a Presiding Judge in the manner it was done and disconnected the phone.

The said person called thrice but the Judge did not answer the calls and laters it was noticed that the number belongs to Taufik Faiz Xerox having Vodafone number.

Bench was of the opinion that,

“…it was an act meant to prejudice or interfere with due course of Judicial proceeding, or an act which interfered or tended to interfere with the administration of Justice which would amount to criminal contempt with the meaning of Section 2(c) of Contempt of Courts Act, 1974.”

However, to ascertain as to who in fact was in the custody of the mobile phone number at those hours and who had called and sent the messages, the Superintendent of Police was directed to record the statement of Niranjan Patel, MLA and Tosif Vohra.

Malicious

Niranjan Patel indicated that he had no family relations with respondent 1. With regard to the call in question, he stated that he never had made any such call nor would he ever think to make any such call on behalf of anyone. His name is dragged maliciously.

Decision

In the present matter, on perusal of the submissions, High Court stated that the apology as may be tendered by the parties, the alleged contemners shall need to be regarded by the Court, where it is also to regard as to whether the apology tendered is at the first point of time without attempting to justify the actions and creating the defence or is it being used as an escape route.

Court also needs to regard, “Whether the same is in a case which has been committed the first time.”

The law is also clear that it is not necessary for the Court to accept such an apology, even if found to be unconditional and unqualified when the parameter of genuineness is not found satisfying.

Administration of Law

Further, the Court added that what is also required to be considered is that there may not be an actual interference with the course of administration of justice but it is enough if the offending publishing or act is likely or tends in any way to interfere with the administration of law.

If the Act if is so derogatory to the very dignity of the justice delivery system so as to undermine the confidence of the people, Court would not choose to overlook such a serious dimension.

Even an apology which is conditional but inspiring confidence, being full of contrition and remorse and which is also meant to be sincere, demonstrating clearly that the person concerned has out of repentance and remorse tendered the same and is not a design or manner to overreach the process, can also be accepted.

Section 12 of the Contempt of Court provides for the punishment of contempt.

Supreme Court’s decision in Bal Kishan Giri v. State of U.P., (2014) 7 SCC 280 considered as to when can an apology be considered, where the following was held:

”…apology cannot be a defence, justification or calculated strategy to avoid punishment for an act which tantamount to contempt of court, and is not to be accepted as a matter of course. However, apology can be accepted where conduct for which apology given is such that it can be ignored without compromising dignity of court, or evidences real contrition, and is sincere. Apology cannot be accepted where it is hollow, there is no remorse, no regret, no repentance, or if it is only a device to escape rigour of law that is it is merely paper apology.” On facts, it had been held that the High Court was justified in not accepting apology which was not bonafide.“ It also held that casting of bald, oblique unsubstantiated aspersions not only causes agony and anguish to judges concerned but also shakes confidence of public in judiciary.”

Decision rendered in case of Vishram Singh Raghubanshi v. State of U.P., (2011) 7 SCC 776  also reiterated that not necessarily, apology even if unconditional and unqualified needs acceptance.

Apart from being bonafide, if the conduct is serious which has caused damage to the dignity of the institution, the same need not be accepted.

High Court stated that when the conduct of both alleged respondent 1 and 2 are considered, it can be noticed that both tendered apology which they insisted to be unconditional and unqualified and at the first given opportunity.

Compromising with the dignity of the institution

Present case being an extremely gross case where there is a direct attempt to contact the Presiding Judge of the Court with a clear design to obtain an order in favour of the respondent 1 by camouflage and all possible efforts have been made to interfere with the administration of justice, even if the apology is termed as a qualified and unconditional, accepting the same would amount to compromising with the dignity of the institution.

Prima facie, it appears that with an intent to get the order in his favour, he had hired alleged contemner 2 who in his opinion was having all resources and was having more contact and he made arrangement in his meeting to get the number of Judge.

Apology

It is a very serious case and, in a time, where many litigants harbour a notion to win over and manoeuvre anything and everything by adopting even extra-legal means and whose only goal is the end result which they desire, regardless of the means adopted, the Court is of the clear opinion that acceptance of apology would vindicate such notion that one can get away with any outrageous conduct by merely tendering an apology.

It appears largely a design to procure liberty by an ill design and unpalatable means of contacting the sitting Judge of this Court right on the day when the matter is scheduled to get the order by hook or crook and the means adopted, as can be noticed, prima facie are such which would shake the edifice if permitted to go scot-free.

The glaring facts of the instant case would not permit this Court to accept the apology and discharge the notice as requested by the Counsels appearing for the parties as the Court cannot overlook the vital and fundamental aspect that such acceptance can mean this Court compromising the dignity of the institution and interference with the administration of justice.

Hence, Court is not persuaded in the totality of facts and circumstances, to accept such apology so tendered. [Suo Motu v. Vijay Arvindbhai Shah, 2020 SCC OnLine Guj 1274, decided on 31-08-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, JJ has sentenced advocate Prashant Bhushan with a fine or Re.1/­ (Rupee one) to be deposited with the Registry by 15.09.2020, failing which he shall undergo a simple imprisonment for a period of three months and further be debarred from practising in this Court for a period of three years. It had found advocate Prashant guilty of criminal contempt on 14.08.2020 in the suo motu contempt petition initiated against him after he criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets.

In the 82-pages long verdict on sentence, the Court said that it not on one occasion but on several occasions, not only gave opportunity but also directly or indirectly pursuaded the contemnor to express regret. Further, the Attorney General had also suggested that it was in the fitness of things that a contemnor expresses regret and withdraws the allegation made in the affidavit in reply, however, the request was not heeded to by the contemnor and he gave wide publicity to the second statement submitted before the Court on 24.08.2020 prior to the same being tendered to the Court. He also gave various interviews with regard to sub judice matter, thereby further attempting to bring down the reputation of the Court.

“If we do not take cognizance of such conduct it will give a wrong message to the lawyers and litigants throughout the country. However, by showing magnanimity, instead of imposing any severe punishment, we are sentencing the contemnor with a nominal fine of  Re.1/­ (Rupee one).”

KEY HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE VERDICT

On Judges being the silent sufferers of allegations against them

The Judges have to express their opinion by their judgments, and they cannot enter into public debate or go to press. It is very easy to make any allegation against the Judges in the newspaper and media. Judges have to be the silent sufferer of such allegations, and they cannot counter such allegations publicly by going on public platforms, newspapers or media

“Thus, it is necessary that when they cannot speak out, they cannot be made to suffer the loss of their reputation and prestige, which is essential part of the right to live with dignity.”  

On the Press Conference dated 12.01.2018 of the then four senior-­most Judges of the Supreme Court

Concept of equality before law, what is permissible not as to what is impermissible. Truth can be the defence to the Judges also, but they are bound by their judicial norms, ethics, and code of conduct.

“We hope it was the first and the last occasion that the Judges have gone to press, and God gives wisdom to protect its dignity by internal mechanism, particularly, when allegations made, if any, publicly cannot be met by sufferer Judges.”

On Prashant Bhushan being actively involved pursuing various Public Interest Litigations

“Merely because a lawyer is involved in the filing of the public interest litigation for the public good it does not arm him to harm the very system of which he is a part.”

An advocate cannot forget his ethical duty and responsibility and cannot denigrate the very system of which he/she is an integral part. Fair criticism is not to be silenced, but an advocate has to remind himself/herself, where he/she crosses the zone of propriety, and the Court cannot continuously ignore it, and the system cannot be made to suffer

On the Statements made by retired Judges, journalists, and others in Press/Media

The Court cannot abdicate its duty and has to be uninfluenced by the statements published in various articles published in the media and opinions expressed therein. It has to decide the case uninfluenced by such opinions.

On the argument that the Court will be criticized, in case it inflicts any punishment upon Prashant Bhushan

“While exercising our judicial functions, we cannot take into consideration whether we will be praised or criticized for the judgment which we render.  We are required to decide the cases on the basis of the law as it correctly stands, in our perception and understanding.  We are not expected to decide the matter on the basis as to whether there will be criticism of the judgment or not. We have to be always ready for its fair criticism.”

On the lawyers and litigants going to press or media in a sub judice matter

Prashant Bhushan talked to the press and media and the statement which was pursuant to the order dated 20.08.2020, was also published well in advance in extenso, word to word, in the newspaper and media. If such kind of action is resorted to in a sub judice matter, that too by an advocate who is facing a criminal contempt, it virtually tantamount to using a forum or platform which is not supposed to be used ethically and legally.

“In a sub judice matter, releasing such statement to the press in advance is an act of impropriety and has the effect of interfering with the judicial process and the fair decision making and is clearly an attempt to coerce the decision of the Court by the influence of newspaper and media, which cannot be said to be conducive for the fair administration of justice and would further tantamount to undue interference in the independent judicial making process which is the very foundation of institution of administration of justice.”

On sentencing

  • The contention that he is a lawyer having of 35 years of standing and has also pursued various public interest litigations would no doubt  be a relevant factor while balancing the decision to be taken by the Court.  However, at the same time, the uncalled statements made in the affidavit for pursuing truth as a defence can also not be ignored.
  • Lawyers’ noble profession will lose all its significance and charm and dignity if the lawyers are permitted to make any malicious, scandalous and scurrilous allegations against the institution of which they are part. The lawyers are supposed to be fearlessly independent and robust but at the same time respectful to the institution.
  • It is apparent that in both the statements made by the contemnor, he is sticking to his ground, and he is not at all realizing that any wrong was done by him to the institution. At the same time, he has expressed the faith in the institution and he has submitted that an apology cannot be a mere incantation and an apology has to be as the Court itself put be sincerely made.  He has further stated that he made the statement bona fide and with truthful details which had not been dealt with by the Court.  He is insistent and has no remorse about what he has stated in the defence.
  • Bhushan not gone by the advice of the learned Attorney General to withdraw the same and to take if off the record. Being a person well versed with law, he ought to have given due weightage to the advice rendered by the learned Attorney General who has pleaded not to sentence him, at the same time maintained that the statements made in the affidavit in reply could not be taken into consideration for considering the case of Mr. Prashant Bhushan of truth as a defence.

“When senior most functionary in the legal profession of the stature of the learned Attorney General was giving an advice to express regret and withdraw the wild allegations a lawyer of such a long standing was expected to give due respect to it.  Even our request made to him has gone in vain.”

  • Simple issuance of warning is not going to suffice in the instant case.

“We are not afraid of sentencing the contemnor either with imprisonment or from debarring him from the practice. His conduct reflects adamance and ego, which has no place to exist in the system of administration of justice and in noble profession, and no remorse is shown for the harm done to the institution to which he belongs.  At the same time, we cannot retaliate merely because the contemnor has made a statement that he is neither invoking the magnanimity or the mercy of this Court and he is ready to submit to the penalty that can be lawfully be inflicted upon him for what the Court has determined to be an offence.”

Sentence 

A fine or Re.1/­ (Rupee one) to be deposited with the Registry by 15.09.2020, failing which he shall undergo a simple imprisonment for a period of three months and further be debarred from practising in this Court for a period of three years.

Background of the issue:

The matter deals with certain tweets made by Bhushan. He had recently criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets which prompted the Supreme Court to initiate suo motu contempt petition against him. Here are the tweets:

The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, JJ, in a 108-pages long verdictsaid that:

“The scurrilous allegations, which are malicious in nature and have the tendency to scandalize the Court are not expected from a person, who is a lawyer of 30 years standing. In our considered view, it cannot be said that the above tweets can be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary, made bona fide in the public interest.”

Stating that in order to protect the larger public interest, such attempts of attack on the highest judiciary of the country should be dealt with firmly, the Court noticed that Advocate Bhushan has been practicing for last 30 years in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court and has consistently taken up many issues of public interest concerning the health of our democracy and its institutions and in particular the functioning of our judiciary and especially its accountability. Bhushan being part of the institution of administration of justice, instead of protecting the majesty of law has indulged into an act, which tends to bring disrepute to the institution of administration of justice.

[In re: Prashant Bhushan, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 698, decided on 31.08.2020]


Read more on the judgment here

Read Advocate Prashant Bhushan’s supplementary reply here

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari has reserved its verdict on sentence after it found advocate Prashant guilty of criminal contempt on 14.08.2020 in the suo motu contempt petition initiated against him after he criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets.

Asking advocate Prashant Bhushan to tender an apology for his remarks, the Court said that there is “no harm in apologising if a mistake has been made”.

During the hearing, Senior Advocate Dr Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Bhushan, argued

“This institution must have criticism and not just criticism but extreme criticism.” 

He further said that his client, Bhushan, had in his submissions stated that he has the highest regard for the institution but he has his opinion about last four Chief Justices of India (CJIs) about the way in which this court has gone wrong.

“We criticise this court when we feel sincere about this institution. We know our responsibility and our respect for the institution. Don’t make him a martyr,” 

To this, Justice Mishra said,

“If we are going to destroy each other, who will have faith in this institution? You have to be tolerant, see what the court is doing and why. Don’t just attack. Judges can’t go to press to defend themselves or explain. Whatever we have to say, we have to write in our judgments,” 

Expressing his displeasure over the way the tweets were written, Justice Arun Mishra, said, that judges are condemned, their families are humiliated and they can’t even speak.

“You are a leader of the bar. We expect you to be impartial. You may have love and affection for anyone but we want you to be fair. Don’t take sides,”

Yesterday Bhushan, in a supplementary reply in the suo motu contempt proceedings, submitted that if he retracts his statement before the court that he otherwise believes to be true would amount to the contempt of his conscience in his eyes.

“If I retract a statement before this court that I otherwise believe to be true or offer an insincere apology, that in my eyes would amount to the contempt of my conscience and of an institution that I hold in highest esteem,”

Background of the issue:

The matter deals with certain tweets made by Bhushan. He had recently criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets which prompted the Supreme Court to initiate suo motu contempt petition against him. Here are the tweets:

The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, JJ, in a 108-pages long verdictsaid that:

“The scurrilous allegations, which are malicious in nature and have the tendency to scandalize the Court are not expected from a person, who is a lawyer of 30 years standing. In our considered view, it cannot be said that the above tweets can be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary, made bona fide in the public interest.”

Stating that in order to protect the larger public interest, such attempts of attack on the highest judiciary of the country should be dealt with firmly, the Court noticed that Advocate Bhushan has been practicing for last 30 years in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court and has consistently taken up many issues of public interest concerning the health of our democracy and its institutions and in particular the functioning of our judiciary and especially its accountability. Bhushan being part of the institution of administration of justice, instead of protecting the majesty of law has indulged into an act, which tends to bring disrepute to the institution of administration of justice.

(With inputs from ANI)


Read more on the judgment here

Read Advocate Prashant Bhushan’s supplementary reply here

Hot Off The PressNews

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who has been held guilty of contempt of court for his contemptuous tweets has refused to retract his statements or tender an apology in the matter. Last week, the 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, jj has asked advocate Prashant Bhushan to take 2-3 days to reconsider his ‘defiant statement’.

Bhushan, in a supplementary reply in the suo motu contempt proceedings, submitted that if he retracts his statement before the court that he otherwise believes to be true would amount to the contempt of his conscience in his eyes.

“If I retract a statement before this court that I otherwise believe to be true or offer an insincere apology, that in my eyes would amount to the contempt of my conscience and of an institution that I hold in highest esteem,”

He said that he has nothing but the highest regard for the institution of the Supreme Court.

“I believe that the Supreme Court is the last bastion of hope for the protection of fundamental rights, the watchdog institutions and indeed for constitutional democracy itself. It has rightly been called the most powerful court in the democratic world, and often an exemplar for courts across the globe. … Today in these troubling times, the hopes of the people of India vest in this Court to ensure the rule of law and the Constitution and not an untrammeled rule of the executive,”

Bhushan said that this casts a duty, especially for an officer of this court like himself, to speak up, when he believes there is a deviation from its sterling record.

“Therefore I expressed myself in good faith, not to malign the Supreme Court or any particular Chief Justice, but to offer constructive criticism so that the court can arrest any drift away from its long-standing role as a guardian of the Constitution and custodian of peoples’ rights,”

He further said that his tweets represented this bonafide belief that he continues to hold and added that the public expression of these beliefs was in line with his higher obligations as a citizen and a loyal officer of the court.

“… an apology for expression of these beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be insincere. An apology cannot be a mere incantation and any apology has to, as the court has itself put it, be sincerely made. … This is especially so when I have made the statements bonafide and pleaded truths with full details, which have not been dealt with by the Court,”

Reserving the order on sentence on August 20, 2020, the Court had said,

“In case, apology is submitted, the case to be posted for consideration on the same, on 25.08.2020.”

Background of the issue:

The matter deals with certain tweets made by Bhushan. He had recently criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets which prompted the Supreme Court to initiate suo motu contempt petition against him. Here are the tweets:

The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, JJ, in a 108-pages long verdictsaid that:

“The scurrilous allegations, which are malicious in nature and have the tendency to scandalize the Court are not expected from a person, who is a lawyer of 30 years standing. In our considered view, it cannot be said that the above tweets can be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary, made bona fide in the public interest.”

Stating that in order to protect the larger public interest, such attempts of attack on the highest judiciary of the country should be dealt with firmly, the Court noticed that Advocate Bhushan has been practicing for last 30 years in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court and has consistently taken up many issues of public interest concerning the health of our democracy and its institutions and in particular the functioning of our judiciary and especially its accountability. Bhushan being part of the institution of administration of justice, instead of protecting the majesty of law has indulged into an act, which tends to bring disrepute to the institution of administration of justice.

(With inputs from ANI)

Read more on the judgment here

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, jj has asked advocate Prashant Bhushan to take 2-3 days to reconsider his ‘defiant statement’, refusing to apologise for his contemptuous tweets. Bhushan said that he will consult his lawyers and think over the Court’s suggestion in 2-3 days.

“We have given time to the contemnor to submit unconditional apology, if he so desires.”

When the Attorney General KK Venugopal urged the Court not to award any punishment to Prashant Bhushan in the contempt case, the Court said that it cannot consider the said request Bhushan reconsiders his earlier stand of not apologising for his tweets.

“The tone, tenor and content of Prashant Bhushan’s statement makes it worse; is it defence or aggravation.”

The bench said that it can be very lenient if there is realization of mistake.

At the outset of the hearing, Bhushan had submitted before the Court that the arguments on quantum of sentence in the contempt proceedings, in which he has been held guilty, be heard by another bench. The bench rejected the submission but gave assurance to Bhushan that no punishment will be acted upon till his review against the order convicting him in the case will be decided.

Reserving the order, the Court said,

“In case, apology is submitted, the case to be posted for consideration on the same, on 25.08.2020.”

Background of the issue:

The matter deals with certain tweets made by Bhushan. He had recently criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets which prompted the Supreme Court to initiate suo motu contempt petition against him. Here are the tweets:

The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, JJ, in a 108-pages long verdictsaid that:

“The scurrilous allegations, which are malicious in nature and have the tendency to scandalize the Court are not expected from a person, who is a lawyer of 30 years standing. In our considered view, it cannot be said that the above tweets can be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary, made bona fide in the public interest.”

Stating that in order to protect the larger public interest, such attempts of attack on the highest judiciary of the country should be dealt with firmly, the Court noticed that Advocate Bhushan has been practicing for last 30 years in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court and has consistently taken up many issues of public interest concerning the health of our democracy and its institutions and in particular the functioning of our judiciary and especially its accountability. Bhushan being part of the institution of administration of justice, instead of protecting the majesty of law has indulged into an act, which tends to bring disrepute to the institution of administration of justice

[In re Prashant Bhushan, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 663, order dated 20.08.2020]

(With inputs from PTI)

Read more on the judgment here

Hot Off The PressNews

“Trenchant criticisim, commentary, satire and homour help build institutions in a free society.”

After a group of lawyers, released a Statement appealing the Supreme Court to not give effect to the judgment dated 14.08.2020 that found advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt in the suo motu contempt petition initiated against him after he criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets, the Bar Association of India has also expressed dismay on the manner in which Suo Moto contempt jurisdiction was exercised by the Supreme Court against a member of legal profession.

“Judgments that curb the exercise of freedom of speech and expression by a member of the Bar by resort to suo motu powers is conspicuously old fashioned. The reputation of the Supreme Court of India cannot be dislodged by a couple of tweets.”

Stating that the stature of the Supreme Court would stand enhanced by allowing criticism rather than taking umbrage at such remarks, BAI writes that the exercise of contempt jurisdiction in this manner has potential for more self harm than the avowed purpose of safeguarding the prestige of the institution.

Yesterday, a battery of lawyers, appealed to the Supreme Court that,

“… the judgment must not be given effect to, until a larger bench, sitting in open court after the pandemic has the opportunity to review the standards of criminal contempt.”

The Statement went on to state that the judgment does not restore the authority of the court in the eyes of the public. Rather, it will discourage lawyers from being outspoken. From the days of the supersession of judges and the events thereafter, it has been the Bar that has been the first to stand in defence of the independence of the judiciary.

“A bar silenced under the threat of contempt, will undermine the independence and ultimately the strength of the Court. A silenced bar, cannot lead to a strong court.”

The Bar Association of India is Federation of the Supreme Court, High Court, District Court and other local Bar Associations, Law Societies in India and the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF), cumulatively representing as a voluntary body almost the entire legal profession, apart from having a distinguished individual membership.

Background of the issue:

The matter deals with certain tweets made by Bhushan. He had recently criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets which prompted the Supreme Court to initiate suo motu contempt petition against him. Here are the tweets:

The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, JJ, in a 108-pages long verdict, said that:

“The scurrilous allegations, which are malicious in nature and have the tendency to scandalize the Court are not expected from a person, who is a lawyer of 30 years standing. In our considered view, it cannot be said that the above tweets can be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary, made bona fide in the public interest.”


Read more on the judgment here

Read the Public Statement by Advocates on Prashant Bhushan’s contempt case here

Hot Off The PressNews

“An independent judiciary consisting of independent judges and lawyers, is the basis of the rule of law in a Constitutional democracy. Mutual respect and the absence of coercion, are the hallmarks of a harmonious relationship between the bar and bench. Any tilting of the balance, one way or the other, is deleterious both to the institution and the nation.”

A battery of lawyers, including Senior Advocates have released a Statement appealing the Supreme Court to not give effect to the judgment dated 14.08.2020 that found advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt in the suo motu contempt petition initiated against him after he criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets. 

“… the judgment must not be given effect to, until a larger bench, sitting in open court after the pandemic has the opportunity to review the standards of criminal contempt.”

The Statement reads that an independent judiciary does not mean that judges are immune from scrutiny and comment. It is the duty of lawyers to freely bring any shortcomings to the notice of bar, bench and the public at large.

“While some of us may have divergent views on the advisability and content of Mr. Prashant Bhushan’s two tweets, we are unanimously of the view that no contempt of court was intended or committed especially when contrasted with the normal standard that “Justice is not a cloistered virtue… She must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken comments of ordinary men”.”

While Mr. Prashant Bhushan as a lawyer of good standing of the Supreme Court, may not be an ordinary man, his tweets do not say anything out of the ordinary, other than what is routinely expressed about the court’s working in recent years by many on public fora and on social media. Even some retired judges of the Supreme Court have expressed somewhat similar views.

The Statement goes on तो state that the judgment does not restore the authority of the court in the eyes of the public. Rather, it will discourage lawyers from being outspoken. From the days of the supersession of judges and the events thereafter, it has been the Bar that has been the first to stand in defence of the independence of the judiciary.

“A bar silenced under the threat of contempt, will undermine the independence and ultimately the strength of the Court. A silenced bar, cannot lead to a strong court.”

The lawyers also express a deep sense of disappointment about the Supreme Court’s disregard of the presence of the Attorney General KK Venugopal during the hearing and its refusal to seek his valuable opinion in the matter, which is mandated even as per contempt law.

The Statement concludes by saying that:

“We do believe that the Supreme Court will hear the Voice of the People expressed all around in last 72 hours on the subject and take corrective steps to prevent miscarriage of Justice and restore the confidence and respect that Citizens have generally reposed in it.”

Here’s the list of the Lawyers who have signed the Statement:

Background of the issue:

The matter deals with certain tweets made by Bhushan. He had recently criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets which prompted the Supreme Court to initiate suo motu contempt petition against him. Here are the tweets:

The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, JJ, in a 108-pages long verdict, said that:

“The scurrilous allegations, which are malicious in nature and have the tendency to scandalize the Court are not expected from a person, who is a lawyer of 30 years standing. In our considered view, it cannot be said that the above tweets can be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary, made bona fide in the public interest.”


Read more on the judgment here

Read the Public Statement on Prashant Bhushan’s contempt case here

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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:

  1. corrupt practices being adopted by the registry of the High Court of Gujarat,
  2. undue favour is shown to high-profile industrialist and smugglers and traitors,
  3. The High Court functioning is for influential and rich people and their advocates,
  4. The billionaires walk away with order from the High Court in two days whereas the poor and non VIPs need to suffer,
  5. 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]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Calcutta High Court: Dipankar Datta, J., issued a suo motu Rule for contempt against Advocate Bijoy Adhikari while holding his conduct in the Court to be abominable and finding it prima facie to be criminal contempt within the meaning of Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Court’s Act, 1971.

Advocate Adhikari had mentioned a writ petition seeking urgent hearing  on the ground that the petitioner’s bus would be put up for auction on 25-3-2020 by the respondent Bank and therefore they should be immediately restrained by an interim order. The Court noted that the bus was seized on 15-1-2020. While refusing the prayer for urgent hearing, the Court went on to state that:

the petitioner cannot, by his own conduct, create an urgent like situation during the present disturbing times and seek a hearing in the absence of the respondent much after seizure of the bus was effected.”

While the order was being dictated by Justice Datta presiding the Court singly, Advocate Adhikari obstructed the course of administration of justice by not only interfering repeatedly in the course of dictation but also first thumped the addressing table and then banged the microphone on it more than once. Advocate Adhikari was warned but instead of heeding to such warning, he was heard saying that Justice Datta’s future shall be doomed by him and for such purpose he cursed that Justice Datta be infected by corona virus.

Curtly, Justice Datta told Advocate Adhikari:

[N]either do I fear dooming of my future nor being infected by the virus; the majesty of the Court is what is paramount in my mind and to uphold that a rule for contempt could be issued against him.     

However, Advocate Adhikari seemed not to care and was found to be unrelentingly shouting at the top of his voice. The Court observed that Advocate Adhikari’s conduct was not behoving a member of the noble profession and thereby undermining the dignity and prestige of the Court.

In Court’s opinion, conduct of Advocate Adhikari, apart from being abominable, prima facie amounts to criminal contempt within the meaning of Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. It was accordingly ordered that a suo motu Rule for contempt against Advocate Adhikari be drawn up and served on him as early as possible. Advocate Adhikari was directed to answer to the Rule within a fortnight from the date of service thereof. The Rule is made returnable before the appropriate Division Bench having determination upon reopening of the Court after summer vacation. [Kalidas Datta v. Allahabad Bank, 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 687, decided on 23-3-2020]

High Courts

Allahabad High Court: While deciding the present contempt petition, where the contemnor via a Notice to the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of India, had leveled serious allegations upon the present Chief Justice of this Court, the Division Bench of Sudhir Agarwal and Dinesh Gupta, JJ., held the contemnor guilty of criminal contempt of Court under Section 2(c) of Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, for scandalizing and lowering the authority of the Chief Justice of this Court by calling him a “pro- Government Chief Justice”, and sentenced him to simple imprisonment of four months, along with fine of Rs. 1500. The Court also prohibited the contemnor from entering the premises of District Judgeship of Allahabad and the Allahabad High Court (including Lucknow Bench) for a period of six months.

As per the facts of the present case, the contemnor had alleged that the Chief Justice of this Court (D.Y. Chandrachud) is a “pro-government Chief Justice unfit for administration” and accused him of indulging in rampant corruption, and that the Chief Justice of India is in cahoots with him. The contemnor further alleged that the Supreme Court has become a hub of corrupt persons who are now legalizing the illegal acts of men in power. The Notice in question issued on 21.08.2014, was placed before a Litigation Committee, who observed that the Notice tantamounts to ex-facie contempt. The contemnor, R.K. Singh, appearing in person, argued that the allegations made in the Notice pertain to the administrative functioning of the Chief Justice of this Court, therefore it is outside the purview of criminal contempt under Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

On careful perusal of the facts and arguments the Court observed that the contemnor has made severe allegations demeaning not only the Chief Justice of this Court, but also the Supreme Court of India. Publication of any matter or doing of any other act whatsoever which scandalizes or tends to scandalize or lowers or tends to lower the authority of any Court comes under the ambit of criminal contempt under Section 2 (c) (i) of 1971 Act. The Court referring Rachapudi Subba Rao v. Advocate General, (1981) 2 SCC 577, observed that vilification of a Judge even in administrative matters amounts to criminal contempt. The Court also observed that the contemnor did not present any evidence to substantiate his allegations. The Court finally stated that the wild allegations of the contemnor against the Chief Justice cannot be justified in any manner, and with the contemnor not showing even the slightest amount of remorse, leniency in this matter would cause a serious damage to the authority of the Court. Ram Kumar Singh In Re, 2015 SCC OnLine All 1131, decided 07.05.2015