3 Dec 2021 3:57 PM GMT
Expressing dismay at the methods adopted by the NGO "India Awake for Transparency" to delay the hearing of the contempt case against it in the Karnataka High Court for filing multiple petitions on the same cause of action against Wipro founder Azim Premji, the Supreme Court has issued a slew of directions to ensure the faster disposal of the contempt case.The bench of Justices SK Kaul and...
Expressing dismay at the methods adopted by the NGO "India Awake for Transparency" to delay the hearing of the contempt case against it in the Karnataka High Court for filing multiple petitions on the same cause of action against Wipro founder Azim Premji, the Supreme Court has issued a slew of directions to ensure the faster disposal of the contempt case.
The bench of Justices SK Kaul and MM Sundresh in their order observed,
"It appears that there is undoubtedly an endeavour to obfuscate proceedings before the Karnataka High Court and the matter is being dragged on unnecessarily to prevent the culmination of the same. Interlocutory applications are being filed for splitting proceedings, postponement of filing of replies, assailing sanction granted by the Advocate General and so on."
The bench in its order noted that the accused 2(one of the directors of India Awake for Transparency) on October 21, 2021 had sought an adjournment to clear office objections on IAs and on October 29, 2021 had sought adjournment to clear office objections on another IA, even though that application had been stated to have been rendered infructuous.
The Supreme Court noted that the High Court had expressed its exasperation at accused 2 for disturbing the Court proceedings and not permitting the proceedings to go on.
Remarking that, "In normal circumstances, it is not for us to lay down as to how the High Court should proceed with the matter but the manner in which these proceedings have gone on disturbs us," the bench laid down the following norms that were to be followed by both the parties before the Karnataka High Court:
Restraining itself from commenting on the merits of the matter, the bench adjourned the matter for directions to January 11, 2021.
On October 5, 2021 the Top Court had directed for the continuation of the interim order of stay of the summons issued by a Bengaluru Court in yet another complaint filed by India Awake for Transparency.
On that day, the Court had also directed the NGO directors who were facing contempt proceedings to file their reply before the Karnataka High Court.
Case Of Criminal Contempt Before Karnataka High Court
The Karnataka High Court on February 12, 2021 had 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 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 "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 learned Single Judge had also observed that 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.
Azim Premji was represented by Senior Advocate S. Ganesh and Mahesh Aggarwal, Adv and G Venkateshwara Rao was represented by Advocates PB Suresh and Vipin Nair. Alleged contemnor Subramanium appeared in person
Case Title: Azim Premji v India Awake for Transparency| Criminal Appeal No(s). 1177-1179/2021
Click here to read/download the order
Click Here To Read/Download Order