The Principal Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal took suo moto cognizance of the behaviour of Shri Mehmood Paracha, Advocate while arguing the case of Mr. Sanjiv Chaturvedi, an IFS officer of Uttrakhand cadre on deputation to AIIMS who filed different Applications with regard to recording of ACRs.
Thereafter, applicant was repatriated to his parent cadre. Shri Mehmood Paracha, Advocate was engaged by the applicant and on 08.02.2019 he stated that the Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissed the SLP filed by the AIIMS, by imposing cost of Rs. 25,000/-. He was also informed that the adjudication before the Hon’ble Uttarakhand High Court and the Hon’ble Supreme Court was only about the power of the Chairman under Section 25 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 to stay the proceedings while dealing with an application for transfer and that issue no longer subsists, with the adjudication by the Hon’ble Courts. Though repeated requests were made to advance arguments did not appeal to him. He started humiliating the other side counsel by saying that they have no right whatever to plead before the Tribunal as per the Orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Creating an unfortunate situation in the Court, was browbeating the Chairman as well as the respondents through his gestures and dramatics. Seeing that his provocation is not yielding the expected results, the respondent herein went on making personal attack on the Chairman. Though he was enlightened about the Section 25 of the Act which provides for hearing of PTs only by the Chairman he went on with provocation deviating from the main proceedings.
Left with no alternative, a detailed order was passed on that date and a show cause notice of contempt was issued. As regards, the proposed contempt proceedings, the matter was placed before the Hon’ble Chief Justice of High Court of Delhi for taking necessary steps under relevant provisions of Constitution of India and Contempt of Courts Act. The PTs were directed to be returned to the applicant so that he can work out his remedies under any provision other than Section 25 of the Administrative Tribunals Act 1985. The fact that the doctrine of necessity cannot be invoked was also mentioned. In a detailed judgment dated 30.05.2019, the Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi, their Lordships referred to the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in T.Sudhakar Prasad v. Government of Andhra Pradesh (2001 (1) SCC 516) and other judgments on the subject, and held that the Tribunal alone has the jurisdiction to hear and decide the contempt case. It is brought to our notice that the order passed by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi was affirmed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court by rejecting the SLP (Crl) No.7850/2019 filed by the respondent herein and accordingly the Criminal Contempt Petition No.290/2019 was initiated by this Tribunal and draft charges, as provided under the Contempt of Courts (CAT) Rules, 1992, were framed on 19.07.2019 on the basis of the remarks and statements made by the respondent herein, in his capacity as an Advocate for the petitioners in PT.Nos.286, 287 and 288/2017.
The respondent filed MA.No.2471/2019 with three prayers viz., (i) to decide certain MAs filed in PT.No.288/2017; (ii) to decide whether the Hon’ble Chairman has jurisdiction to hear the contempt case; and (iii) to pass orders in respect of draft charge dated 19.07.2019. The MAs were disposed of on 02.08.2019. On 11.12.2019, upon request, the Ld. Attorney General deputed Sri Vikramjit Banerjee, learned Additional Solicitor General. 2 After hearing both the parties, the Tribunal expressed the view that the matter falls under Rule 13 (b) of the Contempt of Courts (CAT) Rules, 1992. Since we were satisfied that a prima facie case exists, the charge was framed under Form III. The case was listed on 10.02.2020 and the respondent pleaded not guilty. Sri Vikramjit Banerjee, learned Solicitor General, submitted that such behaviour, on the part of a counsel challenging the very authority of the Tribunal or attempting to denigrate the Chairman would clearly amount to criminal contempt as is evident from the record, cannot be countenanced by any Court.
The respondent stated that the arguments were only on the basis of the record and that he did not state anything which amounts to Contempt of Court and added that a Contempt Case was filed against the Chairman before the Uttarakhand High Court for the observations about the Judgement of Uttarakhand High Court. He has also referred to the SLP pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the said contempt case. To the suggestion made by the learned Additional Solicitor General that the matter can be given a quietus in case the respondent expresses regrets, the latter stated that he will stand by whatever he said in the Tribunal and during the course of proceedings and that there is no question of expressing regrets. The record discloses that he crossed the limits and attempted to browbeat in every possible manner, the Tribunal, and in particular the Chairman. He was informed that such an approach may lead to initiation of contempt proceedings.
Thereafter, he engaged the respondent herein, as his counsel. Even where the parties are a bit emotional, the counsels are expected to discourage them and plead before the Court or Tribunal that much, which is relevant. It is rather unfortunate to note that the attack by the respondent herein was more severe and aggressive, than that of his client. Repeated observations that the PTs are the oldest one and they can be disposed of within a matter of minutes, did not appeal to him. On the other hand, repeated reference was made to the orders passed by the Hon’ble High Court of Uttarakhand and the Hon’ble Supreme Court to cajole the Chairman, as though he has committed a grave mistake and that the reprimand came from the superior Courts. The matter reached its pinnacle when he said in the Open Court that the proceedings be heard in the Chamber because he has to say something about the Chairman. This was a clear innuendo to convey to those present in the Court, that there is something shabby or serious against the Chairman. When he was asked to say whatever he wants in the Court itself, he went beating around the bush and did not spell out anything. That, what has occurred in the Court, be it in the P.Ts or thereafter is not a sudden or inadvertent development, is demonstrated by the applicant and his counsel, the respondent herein. In this case itself they filed applications, counter affidavits and documents running into about 400 pages. Every effort was made not only to justify whatever has taken place in the Court, but also to show what the applicant has achieved in his career and how he has taken on various authorities.
These include the citation for Magsaysay award, the factum of his suspension, major penalty proceedings, his transfer on 12 occasions within 5 years while in the Haryana cadre, the change of his cadre of Uttarakhand, the dropping of charges etc. 3 Even the orders that were passed in P.Ts and this Contempt Case were posted in the social media, and the reactions thereto, are made part of the reply of the respondent in this case. He and his client have hoodwinked the Tribunal at every stage and in all possible manners. Soon after the contempt notice was issued, a contempt case was filed against the Chairman, in the Uttarakhand High Court. A learned Single Judge entertaining it issued notice. The Hon’ble Supreme Court stayed it. The tone and tenor of the counter affidavit and the applications filed from time to time; the documents running into hundreds of pages would only show that the utterances of the respondent were not accidental or inadvertent. On the other hand, there appears to be a premeditation for that. It only shows that they would go to any extent to denigrate the authority or the Court whom they target, even if they get the relief. All depends upon whether the Court or the authority is to their liking. That would be the last thing which a Court can afford to put up with. If that takes place, the Court stands stripped of all its attributes and thereby loses its very relevance, if not existence. These incidents, have taken place right in the face of the Court, and they constitute criminal Contempt of Court under Section 14 of the Act. The very purpose of enacting Section 14 of the Act is to meet the situations of this nature. Though the respondent filed an application for conducting trial, it is not possible, in the very nature of things.
The method of adjudication of the matter to this nature was dealt with by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Leila David’s case. The Advocates and the parties who behaved in an unruly manner in the Hon’ble Supreme Court, were given sentence of imprisonment without conducting the Trial. One of the learned Judges, who was part of the Bench, did not agree with that. The matter was heard by another Bench. Dealing with plea that trial or inquiry needs to be conducted even where Section 14 of the Act is invoked, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held as under counsel i.e., the respondent herein, and for that purpose, the Tribunal became easy target. In these days of stiff competition in the legal field such tendencies are taking place. It may take decades of dedicated service for an officer to be recognised for his efficiency or honesty. Similarly, for a hardworking Advocate, it would take quite some time to get recognition or fame. Unfortunately, recourse is taken by some, to short cuts, without realising that the one who prefers short cuts is bound to be cut short. Sometimes the event may be delayed, but it is bound to occur some day or the other. The only unfortunate part of it is that severe damage is done to the Institutions, in the meanwhile. One cannot find any justification for the unruly and contemptuous behaviour on the part of the respondent herein. In his counter affidavit or in the course of argument, he did not deny what is attributed to him. We hold him guilty of Contempt of Court under Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, in terms of the charge framed against him.
There would have been every justification for us, to impose the sentence, proportionate to the acts of contempt held proved against the respondent. However, by treating this as a first instance, we let him off with a severe warning to the effect that if he repeats such acts in future in the Tribunal, the finding that he is guilty of contempt of Court, in this case, shall be treated as one of the factors in the proceedings, if any, that may ensue.