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A routine bail hearing assumed importance touching on the independence of the judiciary last June after a Judge received a call on her mobile phone with enquiries regarding a case listed before her that morning.
A phone call to a High Court Judge in hopes of influencing the course of an anticipatory bail plea has landed two persons, including the bail applicant himself, in trouble.
Last week, a Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court rejected unconditional apologies tendered over the incident in the Contempt of Court proceedings issued against the two (Suo Motu bv. Vijay Arvindbhai Shah and anr).
The Bench of Justices Sonia Gokani and NV Anjaria said,
The Court added that it was only after investigation when the Court on to the identity of the called that the two persons chose to apologise on finding no other escape route.
Therefore, the apologies inspire no confidence, the Court said. The Bench further remarked,
The Court emphasised that the glaring facts of the case would not permit the Court the accept the apologies and discharge the contemnors from the proceedings. In the totality of the facts and circumstances, the Court thus refused to accept the apologies. The matter was adjourned to be taken up next on September 21.
The contempt proceedings are rooted in a mystery call made on June 22 to Justice Bela M Trivedi mentioning a case listed that day before the judge.
The caller, who introduced himself as Niranjan Patel, MLA, Petlad, was cut off by the judge about 45 seconds into the call after the mention of a case.
The judge promptly directed a probe into the call and ensuing text messages. The bail applicant concerned, Vijay Shah was asked to explain his side of the matter.
Police investigation found that the call was actually made by a third person named Alpesh R Patel from the mobile phone of one, Tofikbhai Vhora who worked at an an STD/PCO shop.
"From the twists and turns, which have surfaced on record, it appears that the name of Niranjanbhai Patel, MLA, Petlad was sought to be used by the applicant Vijay Shah for misleading the Court", the single Judge later found.
Both Vijay Shah and Alpesh Patel tendered unconditional apologies over the events before the Division Bench. Interestingly, however, they both alleged that the call was made on the instance of the other.
Shah alleged that he had got in touch with Patel through his friend Rajesh Solanki and that Patel's help was enlisted only to help him with smoothening things over with the police given Shah's apprehension that the Police were treating him too harshly in the case against him. Shah further stated that he was unaware of Patel's move to call the High Court judge over his anticipatory bail plea in the matter.
Patel, on the other hand, accused Shah and his wife of having told him to make the call in exhange for monetary compensation.
Ultimately, however, the inconsistencies in the two versions of the story only served as an additional factor for the High Court to reject the apologies made by both Shah and Patel. The Court said,
Read the Order: