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Finality of judgments absolutely imperative: Supreme Court imposes costs of Rs 25,000 on contemnor for repeatedly filing applications

The Supreme Court dismissed a plea challenging the decision of the Registrar to dismiss an application which sought recall of a contempt judgment. SC said such repeated applications is an abuse of process of law.

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today pulled up Advocate Rashid Khan Pathan for repeatedly filing applications that are not maintainable, terming the exercise an abuse of the process of law.

Pathan, along with two others, was held guilty of contempt of court earlier this year.

Pathan had filed an application for the recall of the order of the Registry through which his earlier application seeking recall of the Court's contempt order was sought. The Bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose noted that this application filed by Pathan was not maintainable and was in fact an abuse of the process of law.

"The application for recall of an order by which an earlier application for recall of the judgment was dismissed is not maintainable. The only remedy open to the Appellant was to have filed a Review Petition as suggested by this Court in the order dated 04.05.2020. We are of the considered view that the application for recall of the order dated 04.05.2020 is an abuse of process of Court."
Supreme Court

The Court not only dismissed Pathan's plea for recall, but also imposed exemplary costs of Rs 25,000 on him. It also issued a warning that should he continue to misuse the process of law by filing such applications, he will face stricter consequences such as initiation of criminal contempt or a direction to the Registry to refuse any applications in his litigation. The order reads,

"If the Appellant continues to file such repetitive applications in this litigation which are not maintainable, he will be visited with deterrent actions referred above such as initiation of criminal contempt proceedings or a direction to the Registry that no further applications in this litigation will be received."

The genesis of the case is a Supreme Court order passed in March last year, in which advocate Mathews J Nedumpara was sentenced to three months in jail by a Bench led by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman. Mathews was reprimanded for attempting to browbeat judges in a matter related to the designation of Senior Advocates.

Though the jail term was done away with, the Bench had then initiated a fresh suo motu contempt case against Vijay Kurle, Rashid Khan Pathan and Nilesh Ojha for making “scandalous and scurrilous” allegations against judges of the Supreme Court. The notice for contempt was issued for filing frivolous complaints against Justices Nariman and Vineet Saran.

Kurle, Pathan and Ojha were sentenced to simple imprisonment of three months and fine of Rs. 2,000 on May 4 this year. Subsequently, the three were even given an extension of 16 weeks for surrendering in light of the pandemic situation.

It was the May 4 order that was sought to be recalled by Pathan and the application for the same was dismissed by the Registrar (administration) on August 7 noting that ‘it did not deserve to be received for registration’. This decision of the Registrar was under challenge before the Division Bench.

During the arguments in this plea, the judgment of conviction against Pathan and two others was also assailed as being one without jurisdiction and being "impliedly overruled" by a larger Bench in the Prashant Bhushan contempt case.

Moreover, the application for recall also averred violation of principles of natural justice. This was found to be without merit by the Court, which found that the contemnors were given a hearing before the judgments were passed.

The Supreme Court also agreed with the decision of the Registrar to reject the application for recall of its order as being non-maintainable. The Court said,

"In a country governed by the rule of law, finality of the judgment is absolutely imperative and great sanctity is attached to the finality of the judgment. Permitting the parties to reopen the concluded judgments of this Court by filing repeated interlocutory applications is clearly an abuse of the process of law and would have far-reaching adverse impact on the administration of justice."
Supreme Court

Thus, the Court dismissed the plea assailing Registrar's decision while imposing exemplary costs and a warning against more stringent measures should such applications continued to be filed.

Read Judgment:

Rashid Pathan Khan in the matter of In Re Vijay Kurle and Ors.pdf
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