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Madhya Pradesh High Court
Dhartipakad Madan Lal Agrawal vs Unknown on 24 August, 2000
Equivalent citations: 2000 (4) MPHT 131
Author: R Dixit
Bench: R Dixit, N Karambelkar


ORDER

R.B. Dixit, J.

1. The notice issued to the contemner to show cause, sets out the events that took place in the Court of Election Judge (Before Hon’ble Shri S.S. Jha, J.) in Election Petition No. 47/99 on 5-5-2000, the record of the events is as under:

“Petitioner (contemner) in person.

Respondents No. 2 and 3 by S/Shri R.A. Roman & T.C. Singhal, Advocates.

Respondents have moved an application that Election Commission and Returning Officer are not necessary party to the petition under Section 82 of the Representation of the People Act, they are not necessary party.

Petitioner started arguing in person and he misbehaved in the Court and insisted that he has a right to challenge the ultra vires of the provisions of the Representation of the People Act. When he was asked to point out the provision under which he can challenge it, he became unruly and started shouting in the Court. He started thumping rostrum of the Court, therefore, guard was called and he was taken out of the Court. Notice of criminal contempt for disrupting the process of Court be issued to him and he be directed to file reply. Till then the petitioner be kept in custody. Separate proceedings for Contempt Petition (Cr.) be registered against petitioner. The case is adjourned for reply and appearance on 8-5-2000.”

2. The Contempt Proceedings started before regular Criminal Division Bench comprising Justice S.S. Jha and Justice R.B. Dixit on 8-5-2000. When Contemner was produced from custody and Court appointed Additional Advocate General as Prosecutor in the case, reply was not filed and, therefore, case was adjourned for next day. On 9-5-2000 also no reply was filed. On the question of charges, contemner denied that he had misbehaved in the Court or his behaviour was unruly and that he has thumped the rostrum. On the same day, the contemner had moved an application for release on bail. Shri K.K. Lahoti, Additional Advocate General appeared and opposed the bail application in writing and submitted that the contemner being an Advocate has committed grave contempt of this Hon’ble Court. The demeanour of the contemner is not befitting for an Advocate. It is not expected from an advocate to behave in an unruly manner. The contemner has not shown any repentance or apologies which shows his adamant attitude towards his acts. The learned Additional Advocate General further submitted that the contemner is in the habit of making such acts, which has been observed by the Supreme Court in the case of Dhartipakad Madan Lal Agrawal v. Shri Rajiv Gandhi (AIR 1987 SC 1577). In para 32 of the judgment, the Apex Court has considered the conduct of the contemner. On the same day later on, contemner had also filed reply which was found vague. However, considering the contentions of the parties, the contemner was directed to be released on bail..

3. On 11th May, 2000, the learned Govt. Advocate submitted that since contemner has not filed any affidavit as required by Rule 12 (a) of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh (Contempt of Court Proceedings) Rules, 1980 pertaining to gross misbehaviour before the Court, he should be punished. The contemner was asked whether he wishes to adduce the evidence, he refused and said that he would like to argue the case. He insisted that he should be allowed to drink water in the Court by bringing the bottle from outside the Court. Instead of arguing the case, the contemner submitted that he is required to appear in number of cases in various Courts all over India. However, this being a case of an Advocate, it was thought fit to hear Shri N.K. Mody, President of Bar Association, Shri Mody informed that due to misbehaviour with Advocates, the contemner was expelled long back from the membership of the Bar Association. The contemner then objected the hearing of the case by one of the Members (Hon’ble Shri S.S. Jha, J.) and submitted that since contempt is committed in the Court, therefore, the case be heard by some other Bench. The contemner during the course of argument had also misbehaved in most unruly manner and his demeanour was found contemptuous. He was not only disrespectful towards the Court but was insulting too. Since the contemner wanted hearing by another Bench, file was directed to be placed before Hon’ble the Chief Justice, for trying the charge by a Bench of which one of the Members (Hon’ble Shri S.S. Jha, J.) is not a member, as provided under Section 14(2) of the Contempt of Courts Act.

4. Pursuant to the order dated 11-5-2000, His Lordship the Chief Justice was pleased to constitute the present Special Bench before which the matter came up for hearing on 26-5-2000. The contemner when appeared before us was wearing a Mukut (an artificial crown), he was, therefore, first asked to be taken outside the Court and to put off his Mukut. Even then he insisted that he be allowed to argue his case with the crown on his head as it gives him a moral courage and spiritual inspiration to put forward his case. The contemner also objected hearing by one of us (Justice R.B. Dixit) as he was one of the Members of the previous Division Bench, which had heard the matter. In beginning of his argument, he requested that the Members of the Bench should write separate opinion in the final order, or the matter be referred to the Larger Bench. Further developing his argument, the contemner submitted that he has no faith on the High Court of Madhya Pradesh and the Hon’ble Supreme Court be requested to transfer the proceedings to some other High Court than the High Court of Madhya Pradesh. The contemner was warned to desist from making such irrelevant arguments and to submit his arguments on the relevant points involved in this contempt proceedings. The contemner then submitted following legal objections before us :

(1) A parly or an Advocate when submits an argument during hearing of the Court which may or may not be correct, does not commit Contempt of Court. So also, making submissions in loud voice is not a contempt.

(2) How the behaviour of the contemner became unruly or disrupted the process of the Court, was not made clear to him.

(3) In case, he was found to have misbehaved, the matter ought to have been referred to the Bar Council for taking disciplinary action rather than adhering to the Contempt of Court proceedings. In such a situation, the provisions of Contempt of Courts Act are not applicable to an Advocate or a party.

(4) This being a case of face to face contempt under Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act should have been heard and decided in the same sitting. In absence of which, proceedings are vitiated by making a reference to another Division Bench.

5. We now proceed to take up one by one the objections raised by the contemner. This contention can hardly be disputed that submission of arguments ipso facto does not amount to Contempt of Court even if the arguments were devoid of any merit. But, the other limb of argument that submission in a loud voice could not amount to Contempt of Court is not acceptable. In our opinion, if during arguments, the Advocate or the party in person becomes unruly and caring least to the directions of the Court, starts shouting and thumping the rostrum thereby disrupting the process of the Court, it would definitely amount to substantially interfering with the course of justice.

6. In Re. Vinay Chandra Mishra, reported in (1995) 2 SCC 584, when a Senior Counsel questioned by the Bench regarding the provision under which the impugned order had been passed, started shouting and said “that no question could have been put to him”, it was observed that there is every reason to believe that notwithstanding his denials, and disclaimers, the contemner had undoubtedly tried to browbeat, threaten, insult and show disrespect personally to the learned Judge. The contemner seems to be labouring under a grave misunderstanding of his role as an outspoken and fearless member of the Bar. Brazenness is not outspokenness and arrogance is not fearlessness. Use of intemperate language is not assertion of right nor is a threat in argument. Humility is not servility and courtesy and politeness are not lack of dignity. Self-restraint and respectful attitude towards the Court, presentation of correct facts and law with a balanced mind and without overstatement, suppression, distortion or embellishment are requisites of good advocacy. A lawyer has to be a gentleman first.

7. In case of Mohd. Zahir Khan v. Vijai Singh, reported in AIR 1992 SC 642, where the contemner deliberately used insulting language to overawe the Court with a view to securing a favourable order. It was observed that of late this type of behaviour by litigants appearing in person is on the increase. Such litigants carry the wrong notion that by such behaviour a favourable order can be extracted. If such an impression is gaining ground, it needs to be removed at the earliest. As stated earlier, it is a painful duty which we are called upon to perform, more so because the contemner had no valid or good reason for the manner in which he behaved in this Court. Such behaviour and utterances cannot be tolerated as it undermines the Court’s prestige and dignity and affects the working of the Court as it vitiates the atmosphere in which the Court normally functions. It has a direct impact on the Court’s independence, dignity and decorum. To protect the administration of public justice, we are constrained to take action as his conduct and utterances cannot be ignored or pardoned. He does not regret his action. On the contrary he has filed a written reply which is not only defiant but adds insult to injury and dares the Court to send him to jail.

8. In case of Pritam Pal v. High Court of M.P., reported in AIR 1992 SC 904, where an Advocate practising in a High Court after having failed to wrench a decision in his favour in his own cause which he prosecuted as party in person has escalatingly scandalised the Court by making libellous allegations against the sitting Judges of that High Court which are scurrilous, highly offensive, vicious, intimidatory, malacious and beyond condonable limit the same amounts to a flagrant onslaught on the independence of the judiciary, destructive of the orderly administration of justice and a challenge to the supremacy of the Rule of Law. Even a cursory reading of the remarks made against the learned Judge of the High Court unambiguously showed that the potentially prejudicial utterances and the outrageous allegations rumbustiously and invectively made by the contemner with malicious design of attempting to impair the administration of justice have struck a blow on the judiciary and also seriously sullied the image, dignity and high esteem which the office of the Judge of the High Court carries with it and thus impeded the course of justice by fouling its source and steam. It was observed that the power of the Supreme Court and the High Court being the Courts of Record as embodied under Articles 129 and 215 respectively cannot be restricted and trammelled by any ordinary legislation including the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act. Their inherent power is elastic, unfettered and not subject to any limit. Where the contemner has been served with a notice of contempt and thereafter permitted to go through the records and finally has been afforded a fair opportunity of putting forth his explanation for the charge levelled against him it could not be said that the order holding him guilty of committing contempt is vitiated by procedural irregularities.

9. Now so far as not punishing the contemner in one sitting by the Single Judge (Hon’ble Shri S.S. Jha, J.) is concerned, our attention is drawn to the provisions of Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act wherein it has been laid down that when it is alleged, or appears to the Supreme Court or the High Court upon its own view, that a person has been guilty of contempt committed in its presence or hearing, the Court may cause such persons to be detained in custody, and, at any time before the rising of the Court, on the same day, or as early as possible thereafter, shall cause him to be informed in writing of the Contempt with which he charged; afford him an opportunity to make his defence to the charge; after taking such evidence as may be necessary or as may be offered by such person and after hearing him, proceed, either forthwith or after adjournment, to determine the matter of the charge and make such order for the punishment or discharge of such persons as may be just. That under Section 18 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, the Criminal contempt has to be heard by a Division Bench if it is not heard and not punished in the same sitting by the Single Judge. Under the provisions of Section 14 of Contempt of Courts Act also, it is not incumbent to decide the contempt before the rising of the Court on the same day and it is further open to the Court under Sub-clause (2) of Section 14 of the Act to have the charge tried by some Judge other than the Judge or Judges in whose presence or hearing the offence is alleged to have been committed. It is for this reason that the words “or as early as possible thereafter” occurred under the provisions of Section 14 referred hereinabove. In the circumstances, the proceedings are not vitiated as alleged by the contemner.

10. We would further like to make it clear that in no way the learned Election Judge had restricted the contemner from advancing his argument. What was asked on behalf of the Court from the contemner was under which provisions of the Representation of the People Act, he can challenge the ultra vires of the provisions. Then the contemner turned out to be unruly and started shouting in the Court. He further started thumping of the rostrum of the Court thereby turning the situation out of control of the Court. So much so that the learned Judge was left with no alternative but to call out the guard in order that contemner be taken out of the Court. This in our opinion amounts to disrupting the process of the Court.

11. The contemner has drawn our attention to the provisions envisaged under Section 35 of the Advocates Act and emphasised that his case should have been referred to the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council rather than proceeding with suo moto contempt by the Court. He further submitted that in the face of the above cited provision, the Contempt of Courts Act becomes ultra vires so far as an Advocate is concerned. We are of the opinion that the provision envisaged under Section 35 of the Advocates Act has nothing to do with the provisions of Contempt of Courts Act because the State Bar Council can only proceed in case of professional misconduct on a receipt of the complaint or otherwise where it has reason to believe that any Advocate on its roll has been guilty of professional or other misconduct.

12. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in its decision rendered in the case of P.J. Ratnam v. D.K. Kanikaram and Ors., reported in AIR 1964 SC 244, pointed out the object of a proceeding in respect of professional misconduct and jurisdiction exercised by the High Court in cases of professional misconduct in civil or criminal matters. The object of a proceeding in respect of professional misconduct differs totally from the object of a proceedings in a Criminal Court. Proceedings under the Bar Councils Act and similar statutes are taken in order to ensure that the highest standards of professional conduct are maintained at the Bar. These proceedings, though in a sense penal, are solely designed for the purpose of maintaining discipline and to ensure that a person does not continue in practice who by his conduct has shown that he is unfit so to do. It is not a jurisdiction which is exercised in aid of the Criminal Law, for the only question for the Court to consider is whether the practitioner has so misconducted himself as no longer to be permitted to continue a member of an honourable and responsible profession. The object of Criminal proceedings, on the other hand, is to enforce the law of the land to secure the punishment of an offender. It is not incompetent for or beyond the jurisdiction of the Court to proceed with an inquiry in a case where the misconduct charged against the advocate or practitioner amounted to an offence under the ordinary criminal law.

13. In the present case, the contemner before us had denied the allegations that he was unruly or misbehaved in the Court on the ground that no details of his misbehaviour etc. are given in the notice or mentioned in the order sheet of that day. In our opinion, it is neither mandatory nor possible to record each and every word shouted and uttered in the Court by a contemner. The contempt proceedings are ordinarily drawn when in the opinion of the Court, the misconduct or misbehaviour becomes intolerable. In such a circumstance, it may be usefully cited again from the case of Vinay Chandra Mishra (supra) that to resent the questions asked by a Judge, to be disrespectful to him, to question his authority to ask the questions, to shout at him, to use insulting language and abuse him, to create scenes in the Court, to address him by losing temper are all acts calculated to interfere with and obstruct the course of justice. Such acts tend to overawe the Court and to prevent it from performing its duty to administer justice. Such conduct brings the authority of the Court and the administration of justice into disrespect and disrepute and undermines and erodes the very foundation of the judiciary by shaking the confidence of the people in the ability of the Court to deliver free and fair justice.

14. The contemner has come up with another plea of his right of freedom of expression’ as envisaged under Article 19 of the Constitution. Reliance is placed on a decision of the Apex Court in Re. D.C. Saxena v. Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India, reported in AIR 1996 SC 2481, where it has been held that freedom of expression in arguments encourages the development of judicial dignity, forensic skills of advocacy and enables protection of fraternity equality and justice. The advocate or the party appearing in person, therefore, is given liberty of expression. At the same time, it was emphasised that they equally owe countervailing duty to maintain dignity, decorum and order in the Court proceedings or judicial process. The liberty of free expression is not to be confounded or confused with licence to make unfounded allegations against any institution, much less the judiciary. It was further made clear that Article 19(2) excludes the operation of Article 19(1) when speech or expression is trapped in Contempt of Court or tends to trench into it. When the Contempt of Court is committed by a litigant, the freedom of expressing being contemptuous becomes punishable under Article 129 of the Constitution dehors the power under Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act.

15. It is to be noticed that the contemner did not improve his behaviour even after contempt proceedings were initiated against him. He during the proceedings before us further made following contemptuous utterances and filthy gestures, creating most indecent and highly objectionable scenes in the Court:

(i) He appeared wearing mukut, and claimed that he had a fundamental right to put up such a crown, during arguments;

(ii) He may be allowed to drink water from the bottle brought in the Court with the interval of every two minutes;

(iii) (a) Posing himself to be a future Rashtrapati (President of India), the contemner exclaimed that he will enact laws to prevent Judges from becoming Autocrats;

(b) He would enact legislation requiring every High Court/Supreme Court Judge to write a separate opinion;

(iv) He reminded us of his towering personality as a man who had not cared to even attend the funeral of his son and preferred to enjoy a cinema at that moment;

(v) The contemner alleged that all the Judges of this High Court are mixed up and he had no faith in them; and

(vi) He went to the extent of expressing his desire to commit offences of murder and rape after his release.

16. In our considered opinion, the above said contemptuous utterances and gestures amount to further continuous gross contempt of this Court. The contemner was made aware of this aspect of the matter and also that he could be held liable for committing continuous Contempt of Court to which he retorted by stating that no mother on earth has so far given birth to a Judge who can hear and appreciate his convictions and who could punish him.

17. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in its decision rendered in case of Advocate General, State of Bihar v. Madhya Pradesh Khar Industries and Anr., reported in (1980) 3 SCC 311, in considering whether the action of the accused amounted to Contempt of Court, the Court must take into account the whole cause of the continuing contumacious conduct of the accused from the very beginning.

18. In case of Ajay Kumar Pandey v. Virendra Saran, reported in AIR 1998 SC 3299, where the alleged contemner had been making continuous attempts to subvert the course of justice in whichever Court his case was. He has been acting not only as if he is above the law but as if he is law unto himself. It was observed that only because a lawyer appears as a party in person, he does not get a licence to commit contempt of the Court by intimidating the Judges or scandalising the Courts. He cannot use language, either in the pleadings or during argument, which is either intemperate or unparliamentary and which has the tendency to interfere in the administration of justice and undermine the dignity of the Court and the majesty of law. No system of justice can tolerate such unbridled licence on the part of a person, be he a lawyer, to permit himself the liberty of scandalising the Court by casting unwarranted, uncalled for and unjustified as persons on the integrity, ability, impartiality or fairness of a Judge in the discharge of his judicial functions, as it is undoubtedly amounts to an interference with the due course of administration of justice.

19. In view of aforesaid decision, we are of the opinion that taking into account the conduct and behaviour of the contemner leading to initiation of Contempt proceedings and his subsequent conduct during the hearing of the proceedings, the contemner has wilfully committed grave contempt of this Court. There appears no hope of any improvement in his conduct and behaviour in the Court. It would be relevant to refer the decision of the Apex Court in the case of contemner himself (supra) where the Apex Court has observed thus:

“The appellant is a resident of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh and he is a lawyer by profession. He contested election as an independent candidate and on the date of filing of nomination paper by stripping off himself completely and by putting on only a ‘langot’. This caused consternation in the office of the Returning Officer, and it has also been raised as a ground of attack in the election petition. In fact, the appellant has filed certain photographs before us showing himself in a ‘langot’ only. When this appeal came up for hearing before us, the appellant insisted that he should be allowed to argue the case by putting on a crown (an artificial one) on his head. According to him without the crown he would not be able to make his submissions in a satisfactory manner. We refused to grant the permission to the great dissatisfaction of the appellant. A Court of law is a solemn place where proceedings are held in a solemn manner and the time of the Court especially in the Apex Court is precious time which belongs to the people and it would be wholly abnoxious to judicial propriety to allow a litigant to appear in Court wearing a crown to argue the case. The Court cannot be converted into a dramatic or theatrical stage.”

20. Taking into consideration the established facts of the present case, we hold the contemner guilty of gross contempt of Court and liable to be convicted accordingly. The alleged contemner is sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of four months. However, in the circumstances of the case, the sentence will remain suspended for a period of four years and may be activated in case the contemner is convicted for another offence of contempt of Court within the said period. Since the contemner has abused professional privileges while practising as an Advocate, it is further directed that the copy of this order be forwarded to the President, Bar Council of Madhya Pradesh for suitable action.


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