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SC holds Lawyer in 'Contempt' who had levelled scurrilous and scandalous allegations against Justice R F Nariman & Justice Vineet Saran

The SC on April 27, 2020 {RE : VIJAY KURLE & ORS.} held that if an article, letter or any writing or even something visual circulating in electronic, print or social media or in any other forum is brought to the notice of any Judge of the Supreme Court   which prima   facie shows   that   the   allegation   is contemptuous   or   scandalises   the   court   then   that   Judge   can definitely issue notice and thereafter place it before Hon’ble the Chief Justice for listing it before an appropriate Bench. It was held that both   the   complaints in present case are ex­-facie contemptuous, highly scurrilous and scandalous allegations have been levelled against the two judges of the Supreme Court. It was held that the entire contents of the complaints amount to contempt.

It was further held by the SC Bench, comprising of Justice Deepak Gupta &  Justice Aniruddha Bose, that the alleged contemnors could have criticised the correctness of the   judgment, but   the   allegation   that   observations   of Justice Nariman amount to contempt of Court or show his poor level of understanding and lack of basic understanding of law is not language which a lawyer is expected to use against a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court. It was held that, again, a totally unfounded allegation has been made that Justice Nariman was   aggrieved   since   allegations   had   been   levelled   against   his close Judge of the Bombay High Court (Justice S.J. Kathawala). It was held that the conclusion drawn by Shri Vijay Kurle is not only incorrect but totally false and appears to have been done with the malafide intention of harming the reputation of Justice Nariman and raising questions with regard to his impartiality or ability.  

It was observed that Contempt is basically a matter between the Court and the contemnor.   Any person can inform the Court of the contempt committed. It was held that if he is to be arrayed as a party then the contempt will be in his name but when the Court does not array him as a party, the Court can on the basis of the information itself take suo motu notice of the contempt. 

In the present case, the Supreme Court on the basis of the information itself took suo motu note of the contempt and the matter was then placed before Hon’ble the Chief Justice for listing it before the appropriate Bench.  The matter has been listed as a suo motu contempt petition right from the beginning and dealt as such by the SC.

Further held by the SC that a specific charge in Contempt proceedings before SC was not required to be framed and   the   only   requirement   was   that   a   fair   procedure should be followed. It was held   that   the   Supreme   Court   had inherent jurisdiction or power to punish for contempt of inferior courts under Article 129 of the Constitution of India.

It was further observed by the SC that Shri Vijay Kurle has hardly   7   years   standing   at   the   Bar:   his   complaint   is   full   of mistakes and he has not even cared to check the spelling of the name of the Judge who he claims has no knowledge of law; his professional credentials are not known and it was held by the SC that it fail to understand how can he adorn the robes of a Judge to pass judgment on the Judges of the highest court, that too by using highly intemperate language and language which casts a doubt not only on the ability of the Judges but scandalises the Court and lowers the dignity and reputation of the Supreme Court in the eyes of the general public. It was held that these sort of scandalous allegations have to be dealt with sternly and nipped in the bud.

It was held by the SC that the purpose of having a law of contempt is not to prevent fair criticism but to ensure that the respect and confidence which the people of this country repose in the judicial system is not undermined in any manner whatsoever. It was further held that if the confidence of the citizenry in the institution of justice is shattered then not only the   judiciary, but   democracy   itself   will   be   under   threat. It was observed that Contempt powers have been very sparingly used by the Courts and rightly so.  It was held that the shoulders of the Supreme Court are broad enough to withstand   criticism,   even   criticism   which   may   transcend   the parameters of fair criticism. It was held, however, if the criticism is made in a concerted manner to lower the majesty of the institution of the Courts and with a view to tarnish the image, not only of the Judges,   but   also   the   Courts,   then   if   such   attempts   are   not checked the results will be disastrous. It was observed that Section 5 of the Contempt of Courts Act itself provides that publishing of any fair comment on the merits of any case which has been heard and finally decided does not amount to contempt.

Further held that the powers of the Supreme Court to initiate contempt are not in any manner limited by the provisions of the Act. It was held that the Supreme Court is vested with the constitutional powers to deal with the contempt. It was held that Section 15 is not the source of the power to issue notice for contempt.     It   only   provides   the   procedure   in   which   such contempt is to be initiated and this procedure provides that there are three ways of initiating a contempt – (i) suo motu (ii) on the motion   by   the   Advocate   General/Attorney   General/Solicitor General and (iii) on the basis of a petition filed by any other person   with   the   consent   in   writing   of   the   Advocate General/Attorney General/Solicitor General. It was held that as far as suo motu petitions   are   concerned,   there   is   no   requirement   for   taking consent of anybody because the Court is exercising its inherent powers to issue notice for contempt. It was held that this is not only clear from the provisions of the Act but also clear from the Rules laid down by the Supreme Court.

It was concluded by the SC that both the letters on their face are totally contemptuous in nature: No litigant has a right to attribute motives to a Judge; No litigant has a right to question the integrity of a Judge; No litigant has a right to even question the ability of a Judge. It was held that when the ability, integrity and dignity of the Judges are questioned, this is an attack on the institution. It was observed that it is an attack on the majesty of law and lowers the impression of the Courts in the public eye. It was held that the allegations   in   the   complaints are   scurrilous   and   scandalous. It was held that Shri Vijay Kurle and Shri Rashid Khan Pathan do not deny that they have sent these letters; they, in fact, justify the sending of these letters. It was also held by the SC that there is not even a word of regret in any of the affidavits filed by them.

Keeping in view the aforesaid discussion, it was held by the SC that all three alleged   contemnors   i.e.   Shri   Vijay   Kurle,   Shri   Rashid   Khan Pathan, and Shri Nilesh Ojha, are guilty of contempt. And, the matter was posted for hearing on quantum of sentence to be imposed on the said three contemnors.

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