The Supreme Court has extended the time for surrendering for Vijay Kurle, Nilesh Ojha and Rashid Khan Pathan who it convicted for contempt.
The extension of sixteen weeks is ordered by the bench comprising Justices UU Lalit and Aniruddha Bose in view of the prevailing conditions due to COVID-19 pandemic.
In April, this year, the bench comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose held Vijay Kurle (State President, Maharashtra & Goa, Indian Bar Association), Rashid Khan Pathan (National Secretary, Human Rights Security Council) & Nilesh Ojha (National President, Indian Bar Association) guilty of contempt. On 6th May, the bench sentenced them to to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of 3 months each with a fine of Rs.2000/-. The court had further observed that the sentence shall come into force after 16 weeks from the date of the order i.e. 6th May, 2020, when the contemnors should surrender before the Secretary General of this Court to undergo the punishment. This is why the contemnors filed an application seeking to extend the time for surrendering in view of ongoing pandemic.
The bench heard these applications and observed:
Miscellaneous application Nos. 1435, 1436, 1437 have been filed by the contemnors to extend the time for surrendering in view of ongoing pandemic. Grounds other than the lockdown conditions have been raised in the applications which are not germane for deciding these applications for extension. However, in view of the prevailing conditions due to COVID-19 pandemic, we extend the time for surrendering by another 16 weeks. Applications stands disposed of accordingly.
An application challenging Registry Order was also heard by the bench which it reserved for judgment.
'Scurrilous and scandalous' allegations against judges
The contempt was initiated against the trio after a bench comprising Justices RF Nariman and Vineet Saran took suo moto cognizance of a letter sent by Bombay Bar Association and the Bombay Incorporated law Society. The bench observed that an attempt was made by the contemnors to "terrorize and intimidate" the judges.
The trio were held liable for 'scurrilous and scandalous' allegations against Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran over their order sentencing Advocate Mathews Nedumpara guilty of contempt in March 2019. "Though the alleged contemnors claim that they are not expressing any solidarity with Shri Mathews Nedumpara nor do they have anything personal against Justice R.F. Nariman, the entire reading of the complaints shows a totally different picture. When we read both the complaints together it is obvious that the alleged contemnors are fighting a proxy battle for Shri Nedumpara. They are raking up certain issues which could have been raised only by Shri Nedumpara and not by the alleged contemnors Nedumpara", the bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha had observed.
"There is not an iota of remorse or any semblance of apology on behalf of the contemnors. Since they have not argued on sentence, we have to decide the sentence without assistance of the contemnors. In view of the scurrilous and scandalous allegations levelled against the judges of this Court and no remorse being shown by any of the contemnors we are of the considered view that they cannot be let off leniently", the bench observed while sentencing them. The court had also observed that it was a concerted effort to virtually hold the Judiciary to ransom.
In its recent judgment holding Advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt, the court has extensively referred to observations made in this case [Re: Vijay Kurle & Ors] to hold that the source of power of Supreme Court for proceeding for an action of contempt is under Article 129, and that power is not in any manner limited by the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
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