Cannot get away with outrageous conduct by mere apology: Gujarat HC rejects apologies made in contempt case over phone call to Judge
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Cannot get away with outrageous conduct by mere apology: Gujarat HC rejects apologies made in contempt case over phone call to Judge

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.

Meera Emmanuel

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,

"This being an extremely gross case where there is a direct attempt to contact the Presiding Judge of this court with a clear design to obtain order in favour of the respondent no.1 by camouflage and all possible efforts have been made to interfere with the administration of justice, even if the apology is termed as an qualified and unconditional, accepting the same would amount to compromising with the dignity of the institution."
Gujarat High Court

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,

"It is a very serious case and, in a time, where many litigants harbour a notion to win over and maneuver anything and everything by adopting even extra-legal means and whose only goal is the end result which they desire, regardless of the means adopted, the Court is of the clear opinion that acceptance of apology would vindicate such notion that one can get away with any outrageous conduct by merely tendering apology. It is not a case where innocently there is a reference or request for seeking pardon. It is also not a case where either of the respondents was not aware that with what object they were pursuing desired goal. It appears largely a design to procure liberty by an ill design and unpalatable means of contacting the sitting Judge of this court right on the day when matter is scheduled to get order by hook or crook and the means adopted, as can be noticed, prima facie are such which would shake the edifice, if permitted to go scot free. This is an institution which is revered by the citizens for its impartiality and higher standard of dispensation of justice which are also its hallmarks and therefore, any such attack would warrant its zealous safeguard .
Sonia Gokani and NV Anjaria
Sonia Gokani and NV Anjaria

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,

"It is quite apparent from diametrically opposite stands taken by both of them that either of them has not stated the correct facts and one of them is presenting blatant lies. This even at the stage when both the respondent seek apologies, one of them has chosen not to approach the court with clean hands and that also is one very valid aspect not to treat this apology as bona fide."

Read the Order:

Suo Motu bv. Vijay Arvindbhai Shah and anr - August 31 order.pdf
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