Court and contempt: Storm in tea cup!

Court and contempt: Storm in tea cup!
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Court and contempt: Storm in tea cup!

Highlights

Some people are up in arms while others have undertaken the fire fighting exercise following the apex court taking suo motu cognizance of the contemptuous tweets by the celebrated pubic spirited advocate of the Supreme Court, Prashant Bhushan

Some people are up in arms while others have undertaken the fire fighting exercise following the apex court taking suo motu cognizance of the contemptuous tweets by the celebrated pubic spirited advocate of the Supreme Court, Prashant Bhushan.

Surprisingly, this is not the solitary instance of the apex court hauling up an advocate for his contemptuous behaviour. Even in the past, several advocates including a sitting judge of the High Court too, have had the taste of the severe provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. Some of them were reprimanded and let off while other less fortunate had to pay through their nose heavy fines and even be the guests of the prison.

Obviously, not many eyebrows were raised at all these instances, then one wonders whether heavens have fallen all of the sudden now only after the initiation of contempt proceedings against Prashant Bhushan!

If the Contempt of Courts Act is the main culprit, then nothing would have stopped the protagonists of freedom of expression and beholders of the Rule of Law to register their concern all these years since the passing of the said Act in 1971.

Even if some small fries attempted their bit to voice their concern against the statute of contempt of courts, they did not receive any support from any elite quarters for the reasons unknown to them.

Now, the hue and cry has been raised against the so called 'dreaded' provisions of the contempt law. In fact, the courts in India are so much lenient towards the contemnors that in the name of freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India, even the sworn enemies of the country like Tukde-Tukde gang and Jehadis go scot-free. Had it been in some other country, the judiciary would have taken to the task such people including those who showed disrespect to its verdicts such as on the issue of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

Unfortunately, the elite lobby with obvious hidden agendas to weaken the judiciary through brow-beating methods has been by and large emboldened by the soft and sympathetic attitude of the judiciary towards them.

Otherwise, how dare the veteran lawyer Shanti Bhushan could file the impleading petition in the Supreme Court sermonising the apex court about the virtues, honesty, integrity and whatnot. He must be at least aware that the contempt proceedings are concerned only with the contemnor and the third party cannot implead in such proceedings.

This is such a simple thing that even the fresher at the court knows very well. However, nobody can stop any father to go to the rescue of the son who is in the soup. Branding some of the former judges including the Chief Justices of India as 'corrupt' by Shanti Bhushan cannot be taken lightly and he should be made to clarify as to why he kept mum for all these years even when he was the Law Minister of the country and a responsible senior advocate of the Supreme Court.

Considering the prevailing situation wherein some vested interests are hell bent upon deriding the judicial system and insulting the coveted positions of judges, it is high time that about 50 years old law on contempt of court is revised and made more stringent against the contemnors.

In particular, the maximum punishment of 6 months of imprisonment should be enhanced to at least 3 years for the first offence and 5 years for subsequent offences besides the fine of Rs50,000 for the first offence and Rs.1 lakh each for the subsequent offences without any exception. Indeed, 'unbridled' legal horses need to be controlled effectively if the real rule of law has to prevail.

Can't barter land for job: TSHC

In a remarkable judgment delivered on August 4, Justice P Naveen Rao of Telangana High Court held that a contract between a Village Panchayat and a citizen to provide job to the latter against the land given/gifted to the Panchayat is illegal and null and void ab initio.

In a case on hand, the Court was dealing with the grievance of an employee of the Gram Panchayat who had secured the job against the donation/gift of his land to the Panchayat.

MPHC orders digital detoxification

In a unique case, the Madhya Pradesh High Court, while granting bail to an accused student, laid down the condition to perform 'digital detoxification' of himself by not using WhatsApp, Facebook, or other social media platforms for 2 months.

The bench presided over by Justice Anand Pathak directed Harendra Tyagi, a student of Agricultural Sciences to complete his Pre Agriculture Test (PAT). The student was arrested on June 24 in connection with crimes u/ss. 323, 294, 506/34, 327 and 329 of the IPC.

The court also imposed a condition to plant 5 trees. Hope, the reformative mood of the High Court Judge would radiate to all other courts in the country.

Let accused choose between sureties and cash: HPHC

In a path-breaking judgment, the High Court of Himachal Pradesh held that an accused cannot be compelled to provide sureties at the cost of his self pride. The court held that an accused is the "queen" and has the freedom to choose either depositing cash or furnishing sureties for getting bail.

Justice Anoop Chitkara said that the lawyers have a duty to apprise the accused of the existence of the provision of a cash deposit in Sec. 445 of CrPC.

In the instant case, Abhishek Kumar Singh, an accused of committing a white-collar crime had at the time of hearing of the bail petition prayed the Court that in the event his bail petition was allowed, then he should be released on cash security instead of surety bonds because the accused does not know anyone who resides nearby and willing to stand as surety.

Accepting this contention, the court noted that the sole purpose of a bond is to ensure the presence of the accused to attend the trial. The purpose of a cash bond is not to enrich the State's coffers but to secure the accused's presence, and added: "The right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of India's Constitution includes the right to live with dignity. Begging or prostrating before someone to stand as a surety, comes at the cost of pride."

Indeed, this verdict is supported by a catena of judgments by different High Courts and the Supreme Court and will go a long way to provide much-needed reprieve to the bail-seekers who cannot arrange the third party sureties because of several constraints faced by them.

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