Standing in solidarity with Justice Gita Mittal, several senior members of the Bar on Thursday demanded an apology from the Times of India, for publishing an article featuring a letter by a “tormented litigant” against Delhi HC Judge Ms. Gita Mittal.
The letter demanding the apology has been signed by thirty four Advocates, including Mr. Fali S. Nariman, Mr. Soli Sorabjee, Mr. Kapil Sibal, Mr. Dushyant Dave, Mr. Raju Ramachandran and Mr. Arvind Datar.
It raps the newspaper for publishing the report without carrying out any verification or due diligence. “Judges are handicapped and defenseless as they only speak through their judgments. The entire justice delivery system will be imperiled should persons be permitted to use the pseudonymous route to defame and besmirch the reputation of judges. The manner in which the newspaper has provided a platform for such action is also equally appalling,” it says.
The letter makes an attempt to answer all allegations levied in the anonymous complaint and states that participating in judicial or social interest conferences is essential for members of the judiciary and provides a vital opportunity for Judges to interact with Judges from other jurisdictions, experts including Governmental and civil society organizations.
The letter also highlights several initiatives taken by Justice Mittal, such as the establishment of vulnerable witness centres wherein victim-witnesses of sexual offences including rape are provided a conducive environment to depose freely and openly.
The letter referred to in the article has been written by a litigant, Mr. Ram Parshad, who claims to be speaking on behalf of hundreds of litigants “who suffer endless delay in dispensation of justice at the hands of Hon’ble Ms. Justice Gita Mittal.” He alleges that Justice Mittal sits in Court for only an hour a day and “that too is spent on giving public lecture to the lawyers and litigants as to how her Ladyship is busy with administrative work.”
Mr. Parshad takes the pains to analyze Justice Mittal’s month-wise “performance”. He claims that Justice Mittal’s disposals are the lowest by any Judge of the High Court, since she became a Judge, and that in the month of January, the Bench presided by her disposed of only nine matters. “Two were dismissed as withdrawn, two others were disposed of by a common judgment and three others by a judgment each and two more by orders. The four judgments she wrote are of 10, 4, 11 and 33 pages. Two matters disposed of by orders are in 2 and 3 pages respectively. In the whole month she dictated only 63 pages,” it states.
The letter then refers to the performance in the month of February, 2016, claiming that it shows only seven disposals, five by judgments and two by orders, which total to forty eight pages.
“Her Ladyship is not interested in doing any judicial work. At the cost to taxpayer she visits abroad two-three times a year. All these on private invitations which she procures. Even in Delhi she is busy attending all and sundry conferences,” it alleges.
But the office of Justice Mittal said that there is no cases pending in Justice Mittal's Court in the name of Ram Parshad.
Speaking to LiveLaw, former Additional Solicitor General of India and Senior Advocate Indira Jaising termed it as a “targeted attack”, and said, “The attack is not just on her, but on what she stands for and shows the low priority accorded to issues of women and children in our courts and hence it is more serious than what appears at first sight.
It is no secret that Justice Gita Mittal has championed the cause of woman and children facing violence at the hands of society and has pioneered the concept of the child friendly court and brought it to fruition. She is currently hiring matrimonial appeals, an assignment not of her choosing but given by the Chief Justice. There is indeed an unjust stereotyping of women in the profession, as if they do only law relating to women, not that they are not doing that.”
She further said, “Attending conferences of woman judges across the world is better than attending parties through by lawyers for judges and to see her being victimized for that, is to say the least, cretinous.
Lastly, for a reputed paper to carry an anonymous unsigned complaint , it unforgivable and a gross violation of journalistic ethics, I hope they make amends by publishing promptly , an apology for failure to do due diligence.”
The Delhi High Court Bar Association also came to the Judge’s rescue, by passing a resolution on Wednesday. The resolution urges the media to be more responsible “while publishing articles which carry complaints made anonymously or psuedoanonymously, as without an iota of credible evidence.” It further advises the media to exercise a higher degree of restraint and caution while reporting about conduct of Judges, as the Judges cannot defend their judgments in public domain.
It emphasizes on the fact that Justice Mittal handles appeals arising from matrimonial disputes and disputes pertaining to visitation rights and custody of minors. This requires the Bench to invest a lot of time and effort in chambers, exercising jurisdiction parens patriae, i.e. in the best interest of those who cannot defend themselves. It hence terms as “unfair and unwarranted”, the criticism of the Judge on the basis of mere statistics.
Read the letter here.