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The Advocate General for Tamil Nadu, Vijay Narayan has issued notice in a plea to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against a section of lawyers who had registered their objection over certain observations made by Justice S Vaidyanathan last month concerning safety in Christian-run institutions and the misuse of women protection laws.
In this regard, the lawyers in question had written to Chief Justice VK Tahilramani last month, expressing concern that Justice Vaidyanathan’s observations amounted to an abuse of office, propagation of communal hatred, and judicial bias. In view of the same, they had also urged the Chief Justice to ensure that cases concerning minority institutions and women are not allotted to the judge.
Advocate R Soundararajan has now submitted that the statements contained in this letter comprise very serious allegations which tend to scandalise the Court in the minds of the general public. It has been contended that the same clearly amounts to interference with the administration of justice.
“The intention appears to overawe the Learned Judge by making vituperative personal comments on him in the public domain”, states his plea to initiate contempt.
It further states,
“Such unwarranted criticism of Justice Vaidyanathan for certain observations made by him in the Judgments would undermine the independence of the judiciary and would prevent him from acting independently in the Administration of Justice of this Hon’ble Court… .
.. by requesting the Court not to allot cases to Justice Vaidyanathan against which bias is allegedly shown by him would virtually amount [to] interfering with the judicial process.”
Pursuant to the plea to initiate contempt, the Advocate General has issued notice on September 6 returnable by September 30. The respondent-lawyers have been directed to appear before the Advocate General in his chambers at 4 pm on September 30.
The letter in question was issued following an order passed by Justice S Vaidyanathan on August 13, while refusing to quash a show-cause notice issued by an Internal Complaints Committee of the Madras Christian College against a Professor on allegations of sexual harassment.
In the said order, Justice Vaidyanathan had initially commented, inter alia, that “there is a general feeling amongst the parents of students, especially female students that co-educational study in Christian institutions is highly unsafe for the future of their children and though they impart good education, the preach of morality will be a million-dollar question.”
Further, he had also opined that women-protection laws lend itself to easy misuse and that it was the “right time for the Government to think of suitable amendment in those laws in order to prevent its misuse so as to safeguard the interest of the innocent masculinity too.”
However, in the following days, Justice Vaidyanathan himself withdrew these comments after objection to the same was registered before his Court. In the meanwhile, a section of lawyers had written to the Chief Justice expressing concern that Justice Vaidyanathan’s critical observations concerning Christian-run educations and women amounted to a transgression of judicial discipline, which would set an alarming precedent.