12 Jan 2121

Judges shall never use contempt jurisdiction as a means to uphold their own dignity - Karnataka High Court

Case : Sri V. Gururaj v. Sri Sri Vidya Sreesha Theertharu Writ Petition No. 44 of 2021

Court : Karnataka High Court

Bench : Chief Justcie Abhay Oka and Justice Sachin Magadum

Decided on : 12 Jan 2121

The Relevant Statues
Section 2 (c)The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

Brief Facts & Procedural History

1. The learned counsel for petitioner tendered before the bench a memo for withdrawal for this petition.  The present petitioner is the second respondent in Writ Petition No.15239/2020 who is represented by the same learned counsel in the said petition. When the said Writ Petition No.15239/2020 came up before the learned Single Judge on 23rd December 2020, a very peculiar request was made by the learned counsel who appears for the petitioner in this petition. The request was not only peculiar, but shocking. 

2. The request was that the present petitioner wants to request the Hon’ble Chief Justice to have this matter heard by a non- Karnataka Judge of this Court and that a decision be taken in this regard. The order dated 23rd December 2020 had been adjourned the matter by four weeks. Also, it appears that prior to this, the petitioner had filed on 22nd December 2020 seeking a very peculiar writ of mandamus. Thus, a writ of mandamus is sought to the effect that the writ petition should be tried by a Bench  consisting of  the Hon’ble Chief Justice or any other Bench which is constituted by a Judge hailing from a different State other than Karnataka. 

The Issues of the Case

Whether the Court should permit the learned counsel for petitioner to withdraw from the petition filed?

Whether the Court should initiate suo motu contempt proceedings for committing a criminal contempt against the petitioner?

The Observations of the Court

1. The Honourable Karnataka High Court observed that the averments made in the petition constitute a classical example of scandalizing the Court which is per se a criminal contempt of this Court as defined in the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. The first allegation which is very specific on page 4 of the petition is that the Roster Judge will not give justice to the petitioner who is the second respondent in W.P.No.15239/2020 on the footing that there is an excessive interference by the former Chief Justice of India who is specifically named therein. This court deliberately does not wish to refer the name of the former Chief Justice of India. The petitioner allegation scandalizes the High Court of Karnataka and tends to lower the authority of this Court. It constitutes interference with the due course of judicial proceedings. and tends to interfere with the administration of justice.

2. The Honourable Karnataka High Court had allowed the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner to the provisions of sub- rule (2) of Rule 4 of Order III of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 for a memo for retirement in the present writ petition.  The memo was rejected by the bench as it is the discretion of the Court whether to permit an advocate to retire or not. This Court did not allow the said counsel to retire by exercising the discretion which is vested in this Court

3. The Honourable Karnataka High Court held not initiating suo motu contempt action as per observation by the Apex Court for in the leading decision in the case of in re S. Mulgaokar (1978) 3 SCC 339 in which, reliance was placed on a foreign decision in the case of Regina vs. Metropolitan Police Commissioner EX. P. Blackburn (1968) 2 WLR 1204. When the Honourable Karnataka High Court initiated suo motu criminal contempt proceedings against leading Media houses in the State in the form of Criminal CCC Nos.1 of 2020 and 15 of 2019, while dropping the proceedings by the judgment and order dated 28th January 2020, a Division Bench of The Honourable Karnataka High Court to which one of us (Chief Justice) is a party, relied upon the aforesaid decisions. Relevant part of Paragraphs 34 and 35 of the decision in Criminal CCC No.1 of 2020 read

“34. The first rule in this branch of contempt power is a wise economy of use by the Court of this branch of its jurisdiction. The Court will act with seriousness and severity where justice is jeopardized by a gross and/or unfounded attack on the Judges, where the attack is calculated to obstruct or destroy the judicial process. The Court is willing to ignore, by a majestic liberalism, trifling and venial offences the dogs may bark, the caravan will pass. The Court will not be prompted to act as a result of an easy irritability.”

''35. We will never use this jurisdiction as a means to uphold our own dignity. That must rest on surer foundations. Nor will we use it to suppress those who speak against us. We do not fear criticism, nor do we resent it. For these is something far more important at stake. It is no less than freedom of speech itself”

4. The Honourable Karnataka High Court observed in paragraph 7 of the decision of the Apex Court in the case of T. Arivandandam vs. T. V. Satyapal and Anr. (1977) 4 SCC 467, “It may be a valuable contribution to the cause of justice if counsel screen wholly fraudulent and frivolous litigation refusing to be beguiled by dubious clients. And remembering that an advocate is an officer of justice he owes it to society not to collaborate in shady actions.”

Decision Held by the Court

The Honourable Karnataka High Court had disposed of the petition unconditionally as per the memo presented. Additional it directed the petitioner to pay costs quantified at Rs.1,00,000/- to the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority KSLSA within one month from judgment date.  

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