Bombay High Court stops short of issuing contempt notice, but what irked Justice SS Shinde?

Justice Shinde, usually the epitome of patience and magnanimity, takes criticism and social media brickbats in his stride.
Bombay High Court stops short of issuing contempt notice, but what irked Justice SS Shinde?
Justice SS Shinde

"We have tolerance, but not so much also", was how Justice SS Shinde of the Bombay High Court expressed his reservations on Wednesday at the vulgar and abusive language used by a petitioner-in-person during a virtual hearing.

This remark was made during the hearing of a plea in relation to the Malegaon blast case. Recounting what had happened in an earlier case, Justice Shinde said,

"We had a party in person arguing before us through video conference. They were using abuses and saying so many things against the High Court."

Justice Shinde, usually the epitome of patience and magnanimity, takes criticism and social media brickbats in his stride. It was thus quite a surprise that these remarks came from him.

The order published on the High Court website later in the day gave a clearer picture of what had transpired in the case.

The Court was hearing a plea filed by GP Fernandes and Dr. Sarita Parikh, when Additional Public Prosecutor JP Yagnik pointed out that the record of the investigation has to be placed before the Court to effectively counter the arguments of the petitioners. Yagnik said that the record was bulky and could not be shared over email, as the investigation was still in progress. Hence, an adjournment was sought.

As per the order, when Parikh began to reply to the request, Fernandes interrupted her and began addressing the Court in vulgar and abusive language. He alleged that the “Bombay High Court has destroyed them and they are not ready to come to the Court for physical hearing.” He even threatened to espouse his case through the media.

Despite finding it to be a fit case for issuance of notice of contempt, Justice Shinde chose to show “judicial grace and magnanimity” and avoided taking any action.

Justice Shinde had, in fact, specifically listed the case on a day allotted for virtual hearing as per the petitioners' request. They had sought video conference hearing on the ground that they were working medical practitioners and could not attend the courts physically.

After the outburst, Justice Shinde refused to continue with the hearing through video conference citing two reasons:

  1. If Fernandes continues arguing, he will continue his arguments in abusive language

  2. The enquiry papers are bulky and cannot be sent via email because the investigation is in progress.

He, therefore, listed the case for physical hearing on January 29 at 2:30 pm.

Justice Shinde's tolerant approach towards litigants and criticism during court hearings has been remarkable in recent times.

Recently, while hearing a plea by Sunaina Holey in relation to her allegedly objectionable tweets about Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Justice Shinde opined that judiciary should be open to criticism and pay more attention on important questions of law rather than wasting its time over contempt proceedings.

During another hearing of the same case, Justice Shinde laughed off certain tweets by Holey criticising the judiciary for delay in hearing cases. Holey's tweet adverted to a movie dialogue 'Tareekh pe Tareekh' (adjournment after adjournment) in reference to how her case seeking quashing of FIRs was being adjourned frequently. Justice Shinde said that 'Tareekh pe Tareekh' is a fact and criticism regarding frequent adjournment of cases will not be viewed harshly.

"What she said is a fact. We understand that for a litigant their matter is the most important matter. Amongst the thousands of cases filed, for each litigant their matter is most important", Justice Shinde remarked.

In fact, the Bench had also previously remarked that people occupying positions of power should develop a thick skin as it is only they who will be subject of criticism and not some common person.

He also candidly commented during a hearing that he never watched television or tracked news on social media platforms to avoid creating any prejudice in his mind before any hearing.

[Read Order]

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Dr. Sarita Parikh v. State of Maharashtra.pdf
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