14 Jan 2022 10:24 AM GMT
The Karnataka High Court on Friday convicted Advocate R Subramanian and P Sadanand, who represent the NGO India Awake For Transparency, for criminal contempt in the suo-motu proceedings initiated against them for filing multiple petitions on the same cause of action against former Wipro Chairman Azim Premji and the trust formed by him. A division bench of Justice B. Veerappa and Justice...
The Karnataka High Court on Friday convicted Advocate R Subramanian and P Sadanand, who represent the NGO India Awake For Transparency, for criminal contempt in the suo-motu proceedings initiated against them for filing multiple petitions on the same cause of action against former Wipro Chairman Azim Premji and the trust formed by him.
A division bench of Justice B. Veerappa and Justice K S Hemalekha in their order said, "The charges levelled against accused number 2, and 3 are proved and they have committed criminal contempt under section 2 (3) of the Contempt of Courts Act. As regards the second point we hold it in negative, holding that the accused have not made out any case to drop criminal contempt proceedings and discharge them in the facts of the above case."
The court sentenced the two accused under section 12 of the Act to suffer simple imprisonment of two months along with a fine of Rs 2,000 each and in default to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of one month. Further, the court restrained the accused from initiating any legal proceedings against complainants and their group of companies, before any court, or any authority of law.
After the pronouncement of the order, the accused pleaded for suspending the sentence in order to allow them to appeal against the order in a higher court. The request was accepted and the sentence was suspended for a period of four weeks.
The court had on December 23, framed charges against the accused. On January 7 it was after hearing both sides reserved its order on the petition.
Senior Advocate DR Ravishankar appearing for accused no 3 (P Sadanand) had submitted that the name of the company has not been struck down from Registrar of Company records. Only the licence has been cancelled.
It was contended that the charge is framed on the ground that Public interest litigation was withdrawn and then five other writ petitions espousing the same cause of action were filed. He had said, "Wherever a matter is contested the option is open to the court to dismiss the petition. If a second petition is filed raising on the same subject matter and there is an adjudication by the learned single judge. The question is if I were to file the second petition can it be said to be interference with the administration of justice?".
He had added, "In none of the cases where there is a violation of Order 23 Rule 1 of CPC, there has ever been any criminal contempt proceedings initiated."
Advocate R Subramanian, accused no 2, appearing as party in person, contended that there was no dual role played by him as being the authorised signatory of the company as well as the advocate representing the company. He submitted that, "There are limited matters where an advocate can be hauled up for contempt. It is limited to pleadings etc. and when I appeared for the company as an advocate, Contempt proceedings could not have been initiated."
Further, he had said, "This is not a fit case for contempt. By facing criminal contempt proceedings as an advocate. I have already faced extreme humiliation and extreme distress and it is purely for taking up a public cause."
He had pleaded that, "I want to practice in this profession. From the heart I can say that I will never do anything which will affect the majesty of this court. I will never do anything to create anything which will amount to abuse of the judicial process. Inadvertently if I have done something which is wrong, I will still apologise. What I have done is as per my duty as a lawyer. We have not acted in malafide. We will not do anything beyond what the court tells us to do or what is allowed under law. The court may consider all this."
The Karnataka High Court on February 12, 2021, imposed a cost of Rs 10 lakh on not for profit company-India Awake for Transparency, for filing multiple petitions on the very same cause of action, seeking to register a case against founder Chairman of Wipro Company, Azim Premji and others.
The Court noted that the petitioner had filed multiple writ petitions in the High Court seeking criminal actions over allegations of financial irregularities in companies run by Azim Premji. Despite the dismissal of those petitions, the petitioner filed a fresh writ petition with similar allegations in substance.
A single bench of Justice PS Dinesh Kumar observed that "Though the dates of complaint are different, the subject matter is again the same i.e., transactions involving three Companies namely Vidya Investment and Trading Company Pvt. Ltd., Regal Investment and Trading Company Pvt. Ltd. and Napean Trading and Investment Company Pvt. Ltd."
The Single Judge had also observed that the petitioner is indulging in forum shopping on the very same cause of action and this amounts to criminal contempt as the core issue in all these writ petitions is one and the same.
"Even the cause title of Writ Appeal No.307 of 2021 shows that in the appeal, the third accused was representing the first accused as authorised signatory of the first accused. 6. There is a finding recorded in paragraph 27 which we have quoted above by the learned Single Judge and in paragraph 18 by the Division Bench holding that the conduct of the first and third accused amounts to criminal contempt. We may also note here that in Original Side Appeal No.1 of 2021 filed by the first accused which was decided by a Division Bench of this Court on 22nd April 2021, a finding has been recorded by the Division Bench that there is abuse of process of law at the instance of the first accused who is again represented in the said appeal by the third accused," the Division bench of High Court had observed while exercising its Suo Moto power to initiate criminal contempt action against the Directors of NGO on July 6, 2021.
The Supreme Court in its order dated December 2, had issued a slew of directions to ensure the faster disposal of the contempt case.
Case Title: Hasham Investment And Trading Company Private Limited v. India Awake For Transparency Pvt Ltd
Case No: CRL.CCC 9/2021