Saturday, September 2, 2017

Delhi HC sends litigant to jail for baseless allegations against government counsel

The Delhi High Court this week ordered a litigant to be sent to Tihar Jail for one week after he was found guilty of criminal contempt of court for leveling baseless allegations of impropriety against government counsel appearing for the Revenue Department.

The Court took suo motu cognizance of the actions of one Rakesh Kumar Gupta, who had cast aspersions on the personal integrity of the counsel appearing for the Revenue Department without being able to substantiate his claims in any manner whatsoever.

Earlier, the Court had imposed costs of Rs. 2,500 each while dismissing Gupta’s various applications seeking a myriad of reliefs ranging from recording the Court proceedings by phone to passing an interim award of Rs. 10 crore in his favour.

Senior Advocate Manoj Ohri, who was appointed to aid and assist Gupta in addressing the Court, withdrew from the case after Gupta resiled from tendering an unconditional apology.

Thereafter, Gupta appeared in person and defended his refusal to withdraw the charges against the said counsel on the ground that the allegations were justified and that according to him, the complete facts of the case were not comprehensively and ably put before the Court.

He further expressed hope that the Delhi High Court would recommend him for a Bharat Ratna for this ‘huge public service at the risk of his life’ and for eradicating corruption in justice administration.

Gupta also accused counsel for the department for not appearing before the Court on most of the hearings in the contempt proceedings. These accusations were held to be ex-facie unwarranted by the court.

Senior Advocate Vikas Pahwa, who had been appointed as the amicus curiae in the matter, submitted that Gupta leveled baseless and wanton allegations against government lawyers, who were representing their respective departments and were assisting the Court.

“This amounts to intervention in the administration of justice and constitutes criminal contempt of court.”

The Division Bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Najmi Waziri observed that Gupta had on multiple occasions agreed to withdraw the allegations, but had resiled from honouring the same.

“His conduct betrays a wanton disregard of Court procedure and an indulgence in wastage of previous judicial time especially in view of his repeated resiling from withdrawing the allegations against lawyers assisting the Court and offering an unconditional apology.

Despite the ample opportunity given, the respondent has not brought anything on the record for the last 30 months to suggest, plead or justify the allegations as being true.”

The Court also took note of the impact of baseless and unsubstantiated allegations on the counsel after two of them recused themselves from the case.

“The allegations against the counsel for the Revenue and aspersions cast upon their professional integrity by the respondent, would deter and inhibit counsel from rendering assistance to the Court and to their client fully and freely. It would also be a serious and constant embarrassment in the legal fraternity and amongst their respective families, between relatives and social circle.”

While sentencing Gupta to one week of imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. 2000, the Court observed,

“The actions of the respondent may well have been impelled by his conviction of self-righteousness, however, such delusion as may be, would not mitigate the ill-effects of his deliberate actions which the Court finds to be contumacious. He would, therefore, have to be held responsible for the same.

The Court is of the view that the conduct of the respondent tantamount to substantial interference in the administration of justice.”

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