"No Trial Conducted" : Supreme Court Sets Aside CAT Order Holding Advocate Mahmood Pracha Guilty Of Contempt Of Court
The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside the order passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal(CAT) Principal Bench at New Delhi in September 2020 which held Advocate Mahmood Pracha guilty of contempt of court for intemperate behaviour on the ground that no trial was conducted by the CAT.
The CAT had convicted Pracha for contempt of court but let him off with a warning. It had also directed that the order must be forwarded to the Bar Council of India and the Delhi State Bar Council for disciplinary action.
Allowing the appeal filed by Pracha against the CAT order, a bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy held that the Tribunal ought to have held trial when there was a denial of charge, even if contempt was committed on the face of it.
The bench held that the power available to the Supreme Court under Article 129 and 142 of the Constitution was not available to the Tribunal and hence it could not have dispensed with the trial.
"The appellant denied the charges, but no trial was conducted...", the bench noted in the order acquitting Pracha of the contempt charges.
"We would think that, in the facts of this case, denial of a right of a trial which is also contemplated under the Section 14(1)(c of the Contempt of Courts Act as also Rule 15 of the Contempt of Court(CAT), has resulted in the miscarriage of justice. The Central issue had to be decided on the strength of evidence in the teeth of the denial of the charge by the appellant", the bench noted.
"The appellant succeeds, appeal is allowed, impugned order is set aside, appellant is acquitted", the bench stated further.
"We are allowing this appeal only on the ground that the trial was dispensed with. We would undoubtedly have had no reservations in upholding the order, if there was evidence to support the charge against the appellant. Subject to these observations, the impugned order is set aside. Needless to say, the direction to forward the case to the Bar Council will also perish"
Pracha argued the appeal himself. Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee assisted the Court as amicus curiae.
The principal bench of CAT had taken suo moto cognizance in a case where Pracha was arguing the case of Sanjiv Kumar Chaturvedi, an Indian Forest Service Officer of Uttarakhand cadre on deputation of AIIMS, Delhi, who filed different applications with regards to recording of his Annual Confidential Reports (ACR).
Citing instances of unruly and contemptuous behaviour on Advocate's part, the Tribunal had held him guilty of contempt of court under section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
"From the various developments that took place in this case, what we gather is that the attempt was more to add to the personality of the applicant and his counsel i.e the respondent herein and for that purpose, the Tribunal became an easy target," order said.
However, the Tribunal refrained from imposing sentence and let him off with a warning treating it as the first instance.
Case Title: Mehmood Pracha Versus Central Administrative Tribunal