The Delhi High Court, on Friday, initiated criminal contempt proceedings against Additional District Judge (ADJ) Kamini Lau for leveling personal allegations against a High Court Judge.
The Bench comprising Justice Valmiki J. Mehta and Justice Indermeet Kaur came down heavily on Ms. Lau for the "uncalled for and unfounded allegations" leveled by her against the Judge in applications filed by her in the Court.
The Court had been approached with four applications by Ms. Lau, demanding that certain adverse remarks made against her by the High Court Judge in his judgment be deleted, alleging that they unfairly affected her career. The observations were made against the orders passed by the ADJ in cases before her.
At the outset, the Court examined the law as to the instances where a judicial officer can approach a Court for expunction of remarks and held that the Court was empowered to make critical remarks and judicial observations, clarifying that such remarks should not be personal.
It observed, "Therefore, the law is well settled that adverse remarks and strictures cannot be passed against a judicial officer and nor can any remarks be made personally against the judicial officer which will amount to a disparaging adverse remark. Equally however a High Court is completely entitled to make judicial observations and is also entitled to refer a particular judgment of a subordinate judicial officer of the District Court to the Annual Confidential Report (ACR) Committee of the High Court...
... This power of the High Court to refer a judgment of a judicial officer of a District Court to the ACR Committee of the High Court flows directly from powers of the High Court specified under Articles 227 and 235 of the Constitution of India."
The Court then opined that the order to place the Single Judge's observations before the Annual Confidential Report (ACR) Committee cannot be expunged. It also examined the alleged remarks in the four orders and held that the applications were "clearly misconceived".
The Bench, thereafter, opined that the averments made by Ms. Lau in her applications were "shocking" and observed, "We are indeed perturbed and upset at the language used by the applicant/judicial officer in her applications... the applicant in para 2 has stated that the learned Single judge of this court is guilty of violation of the norms of judicial propriety. Surely, it is impermissible for the applicant/judicial officer to make such observations against the Single judge of this court who is exercising appellate jurisdiction over the judgment passed by the applicant/judicial officer…..
The applicant/judicial officer has gone much further to the shocking extent of stating in paras 7 and 8 of the application that the learned Single judge is selectively and successively targeting the applicant/judicial officer whereas we have already reproduced the four orders passed by the learner Single Judge of this court to show that each of the orders reflect correct judicial observations…"
Scorning at the remarks, the Court further opined, "We found it unbelievable and unacceptable that the applicant/judicial officer has crossed all norms of acceptable behavior and made personal allegations against the learned Single Judge of this Court who passed the orders in four RFAs including stating that the learned Single Judge of this Court is selectively targeting the applicant/judicial officer...
... We really wonder as to how can the applicant/judicial officer can descend to the extent of making grave and unfounded averments as made in the said four applications."
It then held that the ADJ was prima facie guilty of criminal contempt of court, opining that her submissions amounted to scandalizing or lowering the authority of the Court. Thereafter, issuing notice to Ms. Lau, the Court directed the matter to be listed on 16 February before the Bench hearing criminal contempt petitions.
It further directed a copy of its judgment to be placed before the ACR Committees of the Judge, "so that the ACR Committees can take note of the conduct of the applicant/judicial officer of making unacceptable and unfounded statements in her applications."
Besides, the Court also observed that administrative inquiry be initiated against Ms. Lau in order to ascertain whether departmental action can be initiated against her. It directed that a copy of the judgment be placed before Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal for necessary action.