Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: This contempt petition was filed before the Bench of Nirmaljit Kaur, J. for disobedience of the order by which the operation of order where promotion was granted to one Renu Rani to the post of Personal Assistant on the ground that she was physically handicapped was granted.

Petitioner contended that respondents had shown disregard to the order by stating that due to interim order respondent shall be allowed to continue to work with Chief Engineer (NCR) and draw the pay as Senior Scale Stenographer till further orders. It was stated in the reply that the order of promotion was not given effect after the Department was made aware of the stay order where no benefit of the Personal Assistant was granted. To avoid confusion earlier memo was substituted for another memo which made the clarification that in accordance with the order no action regarding pay fixation will be taken pending writ petition and employee will continue to work with Chief Engineer (NCR) as Senior Scale Stenographer and draw pay as Senior Scale Stenographer.

High Court observed that the argument advanced by petitioner that she was not reverted cannot be sustained. It was clear before the Court that the respondent had not been given any benefit of the order of promotion which was stayed by this Court. Order passed to clarify misunderstanding raised by petitioner in the contempt petition shows no malafide on part of respondents to contempt or violate the order passed by this Court.  Therefore, this petition was dismissed. [Ajmer Singh v. Alok Nigam, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 303, decided on 27-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Meghalaya High Court: A Bench of Mohammad Yaqoob Mir, CJ and S.R. Sen, J. came down heavily on the Editor and the Publisher of Shillong Times while holding them guilty for contempt of court. 

Report, dated 10-12-2018, captioned “When Judges judge for themselves” were published in Shillong Times, an English daily newspaper. A contempt case was registered against Patricia Mukhim, Editor and Shobha Chaudhuri, Publisher of Shillong Times. 

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. The report published in Shillong Times referred to this order.    

The Contempt

The report on the basis of which the contempt proceedings were initiated 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. 

Decision

After perusing the affidavits filed by the contemnors, the Court found that they had no regrets at all and no respect for the Indian judicial system. Rather they were trying to challenge the system. In its order, the Court stated, “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”. 

Commenting on media rights, the Court observed, “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”. 

In reference to the remarks made in the report related to the retirement of Justice Sen, explaining the background of the case, the Court stated, “the question of a particular Judge on the verge of retirement taking steps for himself or his family does not arise. Hence, the report which appeared in the Shillong Times by the is totally false and without any basis. Patricia Mukhim must understand that we are Judges and our job is to deliver justice for the people in general and we have our own disciplinary methods”.

In one of her social media posts, Patricia Mukhim wrote: “Should the legal counsel for the accused be told by a judge to literally ‘Shut up’ and not speak? Then what’s the role of an advocate if he is shouted down?“. Notably, her posts made indirect reference to ‘a Judge‘. In regard to this to this, Justice Sen stated in the order: “if at all, any such remarks have been made to any litigants or officer by any Judge, the person concerned should have reported to Hon’ble the Chief Justice and I myself with full faith and conscience, I say that I never asked any litigants or officer or lawyer about their personal life, rather it is a known fact to every member in the bar that I speak very less and hear the matters in accordance with law. So, if it indicates to Justice S.R. Sen, it is totally false and without any basis and we Judges maintain the dignity of the Court at all costs”.  

The Court clarified, “we don’t believe in judicial activism, we go according to the law, neither had we intimidated anyone by any notice”. K. Paul, Advocate appearing for the contemnors tried to put in different views on technicalities which according to the Court was totally misleading and was against the principle of professional ethics. 

The Court was of the view that the present matter came within the purview of Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (cognizance of criminal contempt in other cases). After the conclusion of the arguments, contemnors filed two affidavits in the Registry without permission tendering an unconditional apology. However, the same appeared to the Court to be a calculated strategy to avoid punishment. It was stated, “The contemnors being responsible persons should not have indulged in the acts falling within the purview of derogation to the administration of justice”. 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)”.

With such observations and directions, the notice of contempt was disposed of. [High Court of Meghalaya v. Patricia Mukhim, 2019 SCC OnLine Megh 41, dated 08-03-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of RF Nariman and Vineet Saran, JJ has held RCom chairman Anil Ambani guilty of contempt of court for wilfully violating its order by not paying Rs 550-crore dues to Telecom equipment maker Ericsson. It held that the RCom chiarman and Reliance Telecom chairman Satish Seth and Reliance Infratel chairperson Chhaya Virani breached the undertaking given to the apex court and the related orders. The three Reliance companies did not adhere to the 120-day deadline and the extra 60 days given by the Court to pay Rs 550 crore to Ericsson.

Some important facts were brought to the Court’s notice:

  • By a letter dated 21.01.2019, the Reliance Companies were willing to pay the entire sum of Rs. 550 crore with interest if two conditions were met, namely, withdrawal of 26 contempt petitions and withdrawal of arbitration proceedings.
  • Ericsson replied on 23.01.2019, stating that this could only be done by moving an application before this Court as contempt proceedings were pending.
  • Maliciously, instead of moving such appropriate application, from 01.02.2019 onwards, an about-turn was taken, and Ericsson was left in the lurch as a decision was taken by the three Reliance Companies that the corporate insolvency resolution process could be revived.

Considering the aforementioned facts, the Court noticed that the three Reliance Companies had no intention, at the very least, of adhering to the time limit of 120 days or to the extended time limit of 60 days plus. It said:

“We have seen that right from the beginning, the sum of INR 550 crore was undertaken to be paid, without having to depend upon any act or omission of a third party. To say that the sum of INR 550 crore would be paid only out of sale of assets of the three Reliance Companies is a deliberate misstatement made in the undertakings as well as the applications for extension of time filed before this Court, which was done with the purpose of circumventing the orders of this Court. We are also of the view that in the facts of the present case, wilful default is made out.”

The Court, hence, ordered that

  • Contemnors will have to purge the contempt by paying Rs 453 crore to Ericsson in four weeks and if they fail to make the payments within the specified period, the Chairmen who have given undertakings will undergo a jail term of three months.
  • The 3 Reliance companies will have to deposit Rs 1 crore each to the Supreme Court registry in four weeks or the chairman of these companies will have to go an additional jail term of one month.

[Reliance Communication Ltd. v. State Bank of India, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 240, decided on 20.02.2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A bench headed by Ranjan Gogoi, CJ has imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on the former CBI interim director M Nageshwar Rao in the contempt notice issued against him by the court for transferring the CBI officer probing the Muzaffarpur shelter home cases.

Attorney General KK Venugopal appearing for CBI accepted before the Court that it was a series of mistakes as they have not done at this wilfully and that they have unconditionally apologised.

CJI, however, said:

“Contempt has been committed. So there will be a mark on his career”

To this the Attorney General pleaded that M Nageshwar Rao has an unblemished track record of 32 years, hence, a merciful approach be adopted as he has tendered apologies.

Apart from the aforementioned fine, the Court also ordered the former interim CBI director to sit in one corner of the court till the court rises for the day.

Earlier, on February 7, the Court had ordered the transfer of the Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual assault case from Bihar to a court in New Delhi and had summoned the former CBI director to explain the transfer of the CBI officer AK Sharma probing the sexual assault.

(Source: ANI)

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: The Division Bench of Mohammad Rafiq and Goverdhan Bardhar, JJ. dismissed a habeas corpus Petition filed by the petitioner-husband praying for a direction to the respondent- wife to produce before the court the minor child who was a permanent resident of Canada and a citizen of US and cause his return along with the respondent-wife to the jurisdiction of the Court of Canada in compliance of the orders passed by the Superior Court of Justice, Family Court Hamilton, Ontario.

The facts of the case are that the petitioner-husband had alleged that the respondent-wife had wrongly removed their son from his custody. The wife had moved from Ontario, Canada, the place where the three of them were residing at that time, to New York. She then shifted to New Jersey and finally to India along with the son, who was 4 years old at that time. The petitioner challenged this and sought for his custody and his documents like passport, etc. A habeas corpus petition was filed by the husband petitioner, demanding that the wife be directed to produce before the court their son, who was a permanent resident of Canada and was a US citizen, in compliance with orders passed by the Superior Court of Justice, Family Court Hamilton, Ontario. The Canadian Court had also directed various law enforcement agencies including INTERPOL to enforce the custody order. A warrant was also issued against the wife, with imposition of cost of $30,000 upon her.

The High Court, upholding the previously settled law observed that the law has sufficiently developed to rule that despite a pre-existing order for return of a child by a foreign court, the High Court may decline relief for such return. The Court further asserted that the issue should be considered bearing in mind the welfare of the child.

The High Court dismissed the petition of the father stating that the child’s return would not be in his best interests. It observed that if he was forced to go back to Canada in the sole care of his father, it is likely to psychologically disturb him, particularly when he will be required to now adapt to an education system of that country. This would adversely affect his overall growth and grooming as in the absence of his mother.

The Court while dismissing the petition held that  the Court in India are free to decline the relief of return of the child brought within its jurisdiction, if it is satisfied that the child is now settled in its new environment or if it would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable position or if the child is quite mature and objects to its return. The removal of the child from Ajmer, after he has stayed there for a few years now, would not be in his best interests, especially in view of the fact that he is suffering from chronic asthma and amblyopia. It further opined that it cannot hold the wife guilty of contempt as she cannot be solely held responsible for violation of the settlement terms. The Court gave directions allowing the father to maintain contact with his son. Till the time the child attains majority he shall be kept in the custody of his mother in India. [Naveen Sharma v. State of Rajasthan, 2019 SCC OnLine Raj 63, Order dated 11-01-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The Bench of Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha, JJ has given 3 weeks to advocate Prashant Bhushan on contempt pleas by Attorney General K K Venugopal and the Centre for his tweets allegedly criticising the court over the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as interim CBI director.

The bench said it would deal with the larger question of whether it is open for lawyers or any other person to criticise the court in a sub judice matter which would lead to influencing public opinion.

The Attorney General KK Venugopal and the Central Government filed a contempt petition after advocate Prashant Bhushan made some comments on Twitter regarding the appointment of former interim chief of CBI M Nageswara Rao.

The matter is posted for further hearing on March 7, 2019.

(Source: PTI)

Hot Off The PressNews

After advocate Prashant Bhushan made some comments on Twitter regarding the appointment of former interim chief of CBI M Nageswara Rao, the Attorney General KK Venugopal and consecutively, the Union of India have filed a contempt petition in the Supreme Court.

Prashant Bhushan had, on February 1, 2019, had tweeted:

“Today in CBI Dir appt case, the govt made a startling new claim that M Nageswara Rao was selected as the interim director in the HPC meeting on 11th January when they decided to transfer out Alok Verma! This seems to be at variance from LOP Kharge’s version.”

He further claimed that the Govt had misled the Supreme Court by submitting fabricated minutes of High Powered Committee (HPC) meeting saying that HPC approved the appointment Seems govt gave fabricated minutes to court. He said that this was a Contempt of Court. He even claimed that he had personally confirmed this from the Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge that no discussion or decision in HPC meet was taken.

Attorney General, in his petition said that Prashant Bhushan’s tweets scandalise or tend to scandalise and lower or tend to lower the authority of this court. The plea said that the signatures of all the three members of the committee i.e. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Suprme Court judge Justice A K Sikri and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, were affixed in the decision taken by the panel. It was also mentioned that:

“A mere reading of the said minutes would establish that the high powered committee, at the said meeting, had taken a decision to permit the Central government to post a suitable officer to look after the duties of the Director CBI till the appointment of a new Director.”

The Union of India, in it’s plea, has stated that Prashant Bhushan is:

“deliberately and willfully making false statements of a public platform with regard to a matter which is sub judice.”

The controversy relating to appointment of M Nageswara Rao as the interim CBI Director has become a high profile one as already 3 judges, including the CJI, have recused themselves from hearing the matter.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Rejecting the contention of the petitioners who claimed reinstatement in UP Jal Nigam as they were under the “impression” that this what the Court had ordered in it’s order dated 07.09.2015, the bench of AM Khanwilkar and Hemant Gupta, JJ held:

“The contempt jurisdiction cannot be invoked on the basis of impressions, when the order of the Court does not contain any direction for reinstatement or for grant of regular pay scale. The contempt would be made out when there is wilful disobedience to the orders of this Court. Since the Order of this Court is not of reinstatement, the petitioners under the garb of the contempt petition cannot seek reinstatement, when nothing was granted by this Court.”

The Court said that no order was passed to re-engage the workmen who were parties in the Special Leave Petitions and that 61 petitioners in the present case were not party in the group of Special Leave Petitions which were decided on 07.09.2015. The Court made it clear that the said order was only to take workmen on daily wage basis as per office order dated 07.04.2015. Therefore, in the absence of any specific and categorical direction of reinstatement, the petitioners cannot claim any right for reinstatement on the basis of the orders passed by this Court on 07.09.2015.

The Court, hence, said that:

“The Order of the Court cannot be interpreted on the basis of the impressions which may be drawn by the petitioners.”

The Court, hence, dismissed the contempt petitions stating that the Jal Nigam had not violated any of it’s orders. [Badri Vishal Pandey v. Rajesh Mittal, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 8, decided on 04.01.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Rajiv Sharma, JJ., dismissed a contempt petition against a ‘Judge of a court of record’ purely on the question of law.

This petition was filed by the petitioner who was an advocate, against an alleged contempt of Court, said to be committed by the respondent who was the sitting judge of a High Court of having lost his temper along with the use of intemperate language against the petitioner. Additionally few other incidences were also stated wherein unsavoury innuendos were allegedly used plus the petitioner was threatened and warned that he would be sent to jail.

The question before the court was whether a contempt petition against the respondent “of his own Court” was at all maintainable. There were three ways for initiating proceedings under Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act – (a) either taken up suo motu by a Court or (b) on a motion by the Advocate General or (c) by any other person with the consent in writing of the Advocate General. The consent of advocate general was necessary as he was a Constitutional Authority.

In the present case, a contempt petition was neither filed by the Advocate General or with his consent therein nor was taken up suo motu by the Court, therefore would be regarded merely as ‘information’. The court pressed upon the fact that the matter could only be taken up for consideration if it was ‘contempt on the face of it’ but in this case contempt cannot be initiated against a Judge of a Court of Record, on a charge of ‘committing contempt of his own court.’

The Supreme Court in State of Rajasthan v. Prakash Chand, (1998) 1 SCC 1, also held that a contempt petition does not lie against a Judge of Court of Record.
The Court concluded by saying that “The duty of a Judge, after all, was to dispense justice – without fear or favour, affection or ill will, without passion or prejudice. It is not a part of his duty to please litigants or keep lawyers in good humor. A Judge, ironically, with respect to the office he holds, does not enjoy much liberty and freedom. The principal requirement for all Judges, and particularly for a Judge of Court of Record, is to maintain his independence. A Judge can also be very helpless at times with respect to the position he holds hence for the sake of the independence of judiciary, a Judge has to be protected, from vexatious charges and malicious litigations.” Hence for the above reasons Judge of Court of Record cannot be tried for committing a contempt of his own Court. [Chhitij Kishore Sharma v. Justice Lok Pal Singh, CCP No. 03 of 2018, Order dated 04-09-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and Ranjan Gogoi and Dr. AK Sikri, JJ , refusing to grant of further time to Sahara Group and Subrata Roy and entertaining post-dated cheques which are dated 11th November, 2017, said that the same would tantamount to travesty of justice and extending unwarranted sympathy to a person who is indubitably (that which cannot be doubted: Cambridge Dictionary) an abuser of the process of law. The Court, hence, directed the Official Liquidator to carry out the auction of the Aamby Valley property.

The Court directed that the auction be held as per the direction given by this Court and that the Official Liquidator is permitted to carry out the auction as per procedure and during the auction the Registrar General of the High Court of Bombay, who is designated as the Supreme Court appointee, shall remain personally present to over-see the physical auction at the auction venue at Mumbai.

Kapil SIbal, appearing for Sahara, argued that it was the first case where a contemnor had paid the substantial amount which may go up to Rs. 16,000 crores, and though approximately Rs.8651 crores is due, that should not be held against him. He added that tremendous efforts have been made by the respondent-contemnor to comply with the order of this Court and if the prayer made by him is not accepted, the principle of reasonableness would be defeated.

Senior counsel Arvind P. Datar, appearing for SEBI, contended that the auction has to proceed and this kind of “drama of procrastination” must stop. Amicus Curiae Shekhar Naphade also urged that the conception “enough is enough” should be adopted by this Court and there is no reason why long rope should be given to the respondent-contemnor to play truancy and seek indulgence.

Agreeing with the contentions of SEBI and amicus curiae, the bench said:

“He, who thinks or for that matter harbours the notion that he can play with law, is under wrong impression.”

Coming down heavily upon Subrata Roy, the Court said:

“the respondent-contemnor in his own way has treated this Court as a laboratory and has made a maladroit (awkward in movement or unskilled in behaviour or action: Cambridge Dictionary) effort to play, possibly thinking that he can survive on the ventilator as long as he can. He would have been well advised that a person who goes on a ventilator may not survive for long and, in any case, a time would come when he has to be comatosed.”

[SEBI v. Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Ltd, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1069, order dated 11.09.2017]

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Advocate Mohit Chaudhary, who accused the Registry of this Court in order to favour the opposite party to hastily list the matter with the objective of “Bench Hunt”, had been barred from practicing as an Advocate-on-record for one month by a 3-judge bench of JS Khehar, CJ and Dr. DY Chandrachud and SK Kaul, JJ. The Court, however, clarified that it was not proceedings with the contempt jurisdiction but cautioning the contemnor that this should be the first and the last time of such a misadventure.

The contemnor had alleged that due to the manipulation by the Registry, the matter was stated to have suddenly appeared in the evening list prior to the date as the supplementary matter before the special bench, despite the matter not being ‘part heard’ or otherwise marked to the bench. This was alleged to be in violation of the normal rule of listing before a regular bench and indulging in constituting a Special Bench at the eleventh hour as a non-conventional and mischievous act on the part of the Registry.

The Court said that the Contemnor has been practicing as an Advocate-on-record since 2009 and he cannot be said to be oblivious to the fact that no bench is constituted by the Registry, but by the Chief Justice of this Court and thus, in an indirect manner, an imputation was impliedly made even against the Chief Justice though in the garb of a virulent attack on the Registry. The Court, hence, issued contempt notice to the Advocate. The contemnor then sought to place an unconditional apology, acknowledging that listing of a matter, under the direction of the Court, could never be manipulated as stated by him.

Going through the records of the matter that was alleged to be manipulated with, the Court noticed that the contemnor appeared on the first date of hearing in 2013, however, he was replaced in 2014. After that 2 more advocates-on record changed and Jinendra Jain was appearing as the Advocate-on-record till 31.03.2017 when the matter was listed for final hearing on 07.04.2017. On 07.04.2017, the contemnor again came into picture.

The Court, hence, noticed that the existing Advocate-on-Record refused to oblige the litigant petitioner for making the unreasonable mentioning before the Court, seeking to shift the matter out of an existing Bench and the contemnor who utilized the opportunity to re-enter the scene. The contemnor thus took a conscious decision to be a pawn in the hands of the litigant, to scandalize the Court and the Registry of the Court, with the sole objective of achieving a bench shifting. It was clearly a “commercial decision” to sub-serve the interest of his client, even though, it would amount to false allegations and be unbecoming of an advocate. The Court said that this matter should serve as a caution to all the advocates who may consider the interest of the client paramount even to breach the ethical practice of the court. [In re: Mohit Chaudhary, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 939, decided on 17.08.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, Ranjan Gogoi and Dr. A.K. Sikri, JJ refused to entertain the plea of Sahara Group of Companies to stop the auction and lift the attachment on the Aamby Valley City and allow Aamby Valley Ltd., to enter into the agreement with Royal Partners Investment Fund Ltd., for investment of US$ 1.67 Billion.

The Court said that it is not inclined to entertain the aforementioned  prayers, however, if the applicant enters into any negotiations and deposits the amount before this Court, appropriate order shall be passed on the next date of hearing. [SEBI v. Sahara India Real Estate Corpn. Ltd., CONMT.PET.(C) No. 412 /2012, order dated 10.08.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Finding Vijay Mallya guilty of contempt of court, the Bench of A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit, JJ directed him to appear before the Court on 10.07.2017 in order to give him an opportunity to be heard before deciding the quantum of punishment. The Court said that Vijay Mallya is guilty of disobeying the Orders passed by this Court in not disclosing full particulars of the assets.

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.

The High Court of Karnataka had passed an interim order restraining the respondent from transferring, alienating, disposing or creating third party rights in respect of movable as well as immovable properties belonging to them until further. Hence, in the light of the transfer of a huge sum to the children of Vijay Mallya, the Court also held him guilty of violating the express Orders of Restraint passed by the High Court of Karnataka.

The Court 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 on 10.07.2017. [State Bank of India v. Kingfisher Airlines, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 554, order dated 09.05.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Allowing the Sahara Group of companies to submit 2 post-dated cheques of around Rs. 2052.21 Crores i.e. one of Rs. 1500 Crores dated 15.6.2017 and the second one of Rs. 552.21 Crores dated 15.7.2017, the bench of Dipak Misra, Ranjan Gogoi and Dr. A.K. Sikri, JJ said that the cheques shall be honoured in all circumstances on presentation on the due date failing which Subrata Roy will be sent back to custody.

On 17.04.2017, the Court had also asked Dr. Prakash Swamy to appear before the Court, who had filed an interim application giving a proposal that MG Capital Holdings LLC, New York, USA, shall purchase the Hotel Plaza by giving 550 million US dollars and to show its bona fide, had agreed to deposit Rs.750 crores with SEBI Sahara Refund Account but had failed to deposit the sum. Dr. Prakash Swamy submitted that he was not a stake holder or a partner and on the basis of personal friendship, he had filed the affidavit and that he is a retired person and has no source of income. Holding him guilty of contempt of court, the Court imposed a simple imprisonment for a term of one month and directed that he will serve his term in Tihar Jail.

The matter will next be taken up on 19.06.2017. [SEBI v. Sahara India Real Estate Corpn. Ltd., 2017 SCC OnLine SC 492, order dated 27.04.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dipak Misra, Ranjan Gogoi and Dr. A.K. Sikri, JJ ordered the auction of the Aamby Valley City near Lonavala, Maharashtra due to non-payment of amount as agreed by the Sahara Group of Companies and asked the contemnors to provide all the necessary details relating to the property to the Official Liquidator of the Bombay High Court within 48 hours. The Court also asked Subrata Roy Sahara to remain personally present before the Court on the next date of hearing i.e. 27.04.2017.

The Court also directed the Power of Attorney Holder Dr. Prakash Swamy, who had filed an interim application giving a proposal that MG Capital Holdings LLC, New York, USA, shall purchase the Hotel Plaza by giving 550 million US dollars and to show its bona fide, had agreed to deposit Rs.750 crores with SEBI Sahara Refund Account, to appear before the Court on the next hearing. Since no sum was deposited by him, the Court asked Rana Mukherjee, the senior counsel appearing for the Union of India to intimate the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, so that Dr. Prakash Swamy does not leave India and asked him hand over his address and the passport number. The Court also directed him to deposit a sum of Rs.10 Crores in the SEBI Sahara Refund Account within 10 days, which shall be forfeited towards costs,  failing which this Court may issue non-bailable warrants of arrest against him.

Stating that the contemnor shall be guided by the affidavit that has been sworn and filed before this Court and not play truancy with the contents of the affidavit, the Court said that “He who plays truancy with the Majesty of Law, invites the wrath and, may, ultimately, has to suffer the peril.” [SEBI v. Sahara India Real Estate Corpn.Ltd, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 407, order dated 17.04.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Owing to the non-appearance of Justice C. S. Karnan before the Court in the contempt proceedings, 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 issued a bailable warrant of Rs.10,000, in the nature of a personal bond, to ensure the presence of Justice Karnan on 31.03.2017.

On 08.02.2017, the Court had restrained Justice Karnan from handling any judicial or administrative work, as may have been assigned to him, in furtherance of the office held by him and had asked him to appear before the Court on 13.02.2017. Upon non-appearance of Justice Karnan on the said date, the Court listed the matter on 10.03.2017, however, on the next date as well he neither entered appearance in person, nor through counsel

The Court noticed that on 08.03.2017, the Registry had received a fax message from Justice Karnan seeking a meeting with the Chief Justice and the Judges of this Court, so as to discuss certain administrative issues expressed therein, which primarily seem to reflect the allegations levelled by him against certain named Judges. It was however said that the abovementioned fax message cannot be considered as a response of Shri Justice C.S.Karnan, either to the contempt petition, or to the notice served upon him.

The suo motu contempt proceedings were initiated against Justice Karnan after he 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. [n Re: Justice C.S. Karnan, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 238, order dated 10.03.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Holding that the power to punish for contempt vested in a Court of Record under Article 215 of the Constitution does not extend to punishing for the contempt of a superior court, the Court said that such a power has never been recognised as an attribute of a court of record nor has the same been specifically conferred upon the High Courts under Article 215 of the Constitution.

In the present case, a suo motu contempt proceedings was initiated by the High Court of Delhi in the light of a story that appeared in ‘Mid Day’ in its issue dated 2nd May, 2007 under the title “Injustice” that highlighted the alleged misuse of the official residence of Justice Sabharwal who demitted office as Chief Justice of India on 13th January, 2007 and another story stating that Justice Sabharwal had by reason of the orders passed by the bench benefitted the partnership business of his sons in real estate development in and around Delhi.

The Court noticed that no part of the publications referred to the High Court of Delhi or any other High Court for that matter. The publications did not refer to any Judge or any order of any Court subordinate to the High Court of Delhi. Hence, only Supreme Court had power to initiate contempt proceedings in the matter. It was held that if Supreme Court does not, despite the availability of the power vested in it, invoke the same to punish for its contempt, there is no question of a Court subordinate to the Supreme Court doing so.

It was further explained by the bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ and A.M. Khanwilkar, J that a priori if the power to punish under Article 215 is limited to the contempt of the High Court or courts subordinate to the High Court, there was no way the High Court could justify invoking that power to punish for the contempt of a superior court. That is particularly so when the superior court’s power to punish for its contempt has been in no uncertain terms recognised by Article 129 of the Constitution. The availability of the power under Article 129 and its plenitude is yet another reason why Article 215 could never have been intended to empower the High Courts to punish for the contempt of the Supreme Court. [Vitusah Oberoi v. Court of its own motion, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1, decided on 02.01.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where the appellant was unable to produce documents before the Court as the same were destroyed due to natural calamity, the 3-judge bench of A.R. Dave, U.U. Lalit and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ, held that the appellant was not guilty of committing contempt of court as there was no willful breach of the undertaking given to the court. The Court said that It would not be fair on the part of a court to give a direction to do something which is impossible and if a person has been asked to do something which is impossible and if he fails to do so, he cannot be held guilty of contempt.

Explaining the definition of ‘civil contempt’, the Court held that so as to hold somebody guilty of contempt of court, the concerned person must have willfully disobeyed any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or any other process of a court or should have willfully committed breach of an undertaking given to a court. Having regard to the facts of the case where the appellant’s house was badly hit by the cyclone in the year 1999, as a result of which his house was submerged into the flood water consequent to that it was collapsed as his house was built up of mud and covered with asbestos sheets resulting most of their belongings were vanished, the Court said that it is crystal clear that the appellant had no intention of committing breach of the undertaking given to the court and that it was physically impossible for the appellant to produce the documents.

The High Court of Andhra Pradesh had held the appellant guilty of contempt of Court and had sentenced simple imprisonment for one week and a fine of Rs.2,000/-. Disagreeing with the order of the High Court, the Court said that It is deplorable that the appellant has been held guilty and has also undergone the sentence imposed by the High Court. [Gyani Chand v. State of A.P., 2016 SCC OnLine SC 961, decided on 20.09.2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Court while rejecting the bail application of Dr. Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba who was arrested for his alleged links with Maoists, directed for registration of Criminal Contempt against the author Arundhati Roy for the article she had written in The Outlook criticizing the non-granting of bail to the Professor.

The Professor had approached the Court for the second time, after his first bail application on health grounds was rejected. In this application, an additional ground was also raised about parity in relation to the other accused in the same crime. The court, rejecting the ground of parity raised observed that, unlike others, there is a prima facie case against the Prof. Saibaba and in fact he being an intellectual has used his intelligentsia for anti national activities for which there is strong evidence against him. The Court in its judgment has also reproduced an Article written by Arundati Roy which appeared in Outlook, in which she had questioned denial of bail to the Professor. The Court said that, instead of challenging the orders passed by Sessions Court and High Court, the author appears to have invented a novel idea of bashing the Central Government, the State Government, the Police machinery and the judiciary and that was, prima facie, with a mala fide motive to interfere in the administration of Justice.

The Court thus dismissed the application for bail and directed the applicant to surrender within 48 hours lest he shall be arrested by the police. Also, in furtherance of the reasons given in the judgment, criminal contempt was directed to be registered against author Arundhati Roy. [Dr. Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba v. State of Maharasthra, Criminal Application (BA) NO.785/2015, decided on 24.12.15]

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Taking a strict action in a case of Contempt of the Court for using a slang language against the Hon’ble Judges of the Court to convey his disagreement with the Judgment pronounced, a bench of Vikramajit Sen and C. Nagappan JJ affirmed the impugned judgment of the Kerala High Court and ordered for the incarceration of the appellant for committing the contempt of the Court and awarded 4 weeks of simple imprisonment.

In the instant case, the appellant (an advocate and an ex-MLA) delivered a speech in the public meeting at Kannur, Kerala to protest the hike in petroleum prices, against the order of the Division Bench of the Kerala HC which banned the holding of meetings on public roads and road margins in the State with the object of ensuring accident-free and uninterrupted traffic along such roads. In the speech, the appellant said that “Courts verdict have only the value of grass”, “why should those judges sit in glass houses”, “if they have any self respect, they should resign”, and also used the word “Sumbhan” for Judges.

The Learned Counsel for the appellant contended that the speech does not amount to contempt of Court as  “it was not a prepared speech, but one delivered extempore”, “media has given wide publicity to the speech taking certain words used out of context and has provided their own interpretation and meaning to those words with ulterior motive and design”, and that the use of word “Sumbhan” in the speech is a Malayalam word without any specific or definite meaning, and in the speech it only convey the idea that the judges while passing the judgment have not properly considered the issue involved in all its aspect or the resultant consequences thereof.

The Court observed that certain expressions used in the speech were unhesitatingly and unequivocally inappropriate, and that inquiries made by the Court reveal that  the word “Sumbhan” and “”Sumbhanmar” are pejorative or insulting epithets/ abuses akin to calling a person fool or idiot. The Court stated that the appellant may be excused insofar as he has dissected the Judgment and even for saying that Judges live in glass houses and that Judgments worth is less than grass, since this is his perception. However, it is not open for the appellant or any person to employ abusive and pejorative language to the authors of the Judgment and call them to resign and step down from their office if they have any self respect. The Court further stated that the speech intended to scandalize and lower the dignity of the Court, and therefore requires to be roundly repulsed and combated. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the impugned judgment of the Division Bench of the Kerala HC, and modified the 6 months imprisonment to that of simple imprisonment for a period of 4 weeks. MV Jayarajan v. High Court of Kerala, decided on 30-01-2015.