“Now its like we are Indians…violation of law and orders of courts is in our blood and culture. This cannot happen and should be set right for once and for all. We will do it. If you have to rise as a nation you have to abide by law, otherwise you have to be punished”, Chief Justice J S Khehar
Four weeks before his retirement, Chief Justice J S Khehar has expressed concern at the number of contempt cases piling up before the Supreme Court and said “now its like we are Indians. Violation of law and orders of the court is in our blood and culture.”
“Today the trend is like come what may I won’t obey law. I will violate court directions. Come what may, nothing is going to happen to me.This should not happen and should be set right for once and for all. We will do it. If you have to rise as a nation you have to abide by law, otherwise you have to be punished”, the CJI said on Friday during the hearing of a contempt case.
The strong remarks come at a time when the apex court has convicted business tycoon Vijay Mallya for contempt of orders to disclose assets and also for failure to appear before it the bank loan repayment case.
The pertinent contempt case in which the SC made the remarks was against one Dinesh Khosla, head of an educational institute Modi Apollo International Institute for Management Education in Delhi’s posh Lajpat Nagar.
As per Master Plan, the premises from which the institute, with a capacity of 800 students is being run, was residential. But it was being illegally put to commercial use till now, even 11 years after the apex court order (in 2006) to vacate and shift to a conforming area.
This, despite the institute’s own affidavit dated February 23, 2007 requesting to de-seal the property “till May 2008” by which time they promised to shift. Taking their word, the property had even been de-sealed.
The bench was hearing a contempt plea filed by advocates A D N Rao and Anitha Shenoy, representing the monitoring committee (sealing) against Khosla for “deliberate and willful” violation of the orders of the court.
The Chief Justice was all the more angry as the lawyers kept on arguing for nearly two hours, tried to counter each of the contention of the monitoring committee and of the bench when the evidence regarding non-compliance of court order was clearly against him.
They only changed the tone and seemed to inclined to apologize when the court clearly said it was going to send Khosla to jail.
“You could have said I made a mistake … I apologize..kindly withdraw the contempt petition and drop the proceedings against me.. rather than that you are refuting what the court says the amicus says..you violate and then raise arguments…arguments and more arguments” CJI Khehar told Khosla’s lawyers.
The lawyers however succeeded in persuading the Chief Justice against imprisoning Khosla citing several “mitigating factors” in his favour. The court limited the punishment to Rs five lakh fine.
“Though satisfied that violation of undertaking and orders was deliberate and intentional, yet there were certain mitigating circumstances which may have an effect on the severity of the order. But there can be no doubt that the action of respondent is clear contempt. In similar circumstances normally harsher sentence is called for”, the court concluded.
The mitigating circumstances was that there was a Public Notice regarding the MPD 2021, that would come into effect in August. According to the contemnors, this may have regularized their user from August onwards. To get the benefit of this, they filed an application before the Supreme Court, to extend their user.
No order was granted in their favor by the Hon'ble Supreme Court, but they continued to remain in the premises, which amounted to contempt. However, the fact that they believed that they could have got the benefit of this Notice , which may have regularized their stay, was seen as a mitigating circumstance by the Court.