Senior Advocate Yatin Oza
Senior Advocate Yatin Oza
Litigation News

Not satisfied apology is genuine: Gujarat HC rejects apology, refuses to discharge Yatin Oza from contempt case [Read Judgment]

The development comes days after a Full Court rejected the apology tendered by Oza on a plea to reconsider their withdrawal of his Senior Advocate designation over the issue.

Meera Emmanuel

A Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court on Wednesday concluded that it is not satisfied with the genuineness of the unconditional apology tendered by GHCAA President Yatin Oza in relation to the contempt proceedings initiated against him (Suo Motu v. Yatin Narendra Oza).

The development comes days after a Full Court rejected the apology tendered by Oza on a plea to reconsider their withdrawal of his Senior Advocate designation over the issue.

The suo motu contempt case was registered by the High Court after Oza levelled certain allegations of corruption against the Court registry in an online interview.

After the Supreme Court declined to interfere in the matter and directed Oza to approach the High Court instead, a statement expressing Oza's unconditional apology over his comments was filed before the High Court on August 10.

However, a Bench of Justices Sonia Gokani and NV Anjaria has now rejected this apology and refused to discharge Oza from the contempt case, opining that,

"We are neither satisfied with the genuineness of apology tendered before this court nor convinced of its bona fide nature of such apology and therefore, choose not to accept the same, and to discharge the respondent at this stage of proceedings."
Gujarat High Court

The Court further emphasised,

"... While so holding we are neither losing sight of the magnanimity expected of the court initiating the proceedings of contempt being an initiator and also an adjudicator before whom contemnor tenders apology. Nor are we acting with unwarranted sensitivity. Nor are we guided by feelings of conceit or positional supremacy, unacceptable in any person trusted by the Constitution with such vital powers of contempt."

In considering the issue, the Court highlighted that they had focused on whether the apology made by Oza was bona fide or not.

While it took note of Oza's submission in his apology statement that he holds the Judges in high esteem and that the comments were made only against the Court registry, the Bench opined that "the registry also cannot be permitted to be used as a pretext to attack on the administration of justice."

It was further observed that "it is the knowledge of even a commoner that dispensation of justice is not the function of registry but of the judges exclusively and when serious announcements are made of doors of justice being closed for all others except only rich and resourceful litigants, irreparable and irreversible damage is prima facie caused. It is to be reminded that the registry carries on the function as an effective part and administrative arm of the justice delivery system."

The Court went on to express that it was unconvinced by Oza's submission that his comments were part of an emotional outburst amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Responding to this, the Bench opined that Oza's interview was telecast live for the same to be viewed for its intensity and virulence and with the intent of declaring the Court to have lost its trust. The judgment further records,

"We are dismayed at the manner in which the entire meeting was conducted which also gives a glimpse of impunity with which the possibility of notice of contempt and contempt action were also referred to before the media persons, it can be prima facie noticed that this entire sequence of events is bereft of any emotional outburst and contrarily, appears prima facie to be more guided by a definite and purposive object of attacking the Institute. Not only the present strength of the Bar and Bench and the members of Registry but all those who have in the past 60 years have given their toil and blood to this institution to bring it to the present level, ought to have been regarded."

The Court also made critical note of the timing of the apology as well as previous instances where contempt proceedings were initiated against Oza.

"... the fact remains that after the Apex court chose not to entertain his petition, he approached this court and that too, after proceedings against him have been initiated independently by the full court in connection with conferring of the title of Senior Counsel", the Court said.

The Bench added that, "The repeated acts and conduct of contempt would definitely be one of the guiding factors for the Court to hold that apology tendered is not bona fide and lacks sincerity and therefore, an unacceptable proposition. Every time scurrilous remarks against the Judges and the institution are made and when he realises that there is no escape route, the weapon of unconditional apology comes to his rescue."

While refusing to accept Oza's apology in this case, the Court held that "A clear and loud message is a must to be sent that we are open to every healthy criticism respecting the fundamental right of freedom of expression and at the same time, we are obligated not to permit any attempt to tarnish the image of the Institution and to despise and damage the prestige of the same and to demean the respect it enjoys by one and all."

Referring to the case of LD Jaikwal v. State of UP, the Court also commented that while Advocates and parties-in-person have the liberty of expression, "Any adverse opinion about the judiciary should only be expressed in a dignified manner and respectful language."

"The liberty of free expression is not to be confused with license to make unfounded allegations against any institution much less the judiciary."
Gujarat High Court

With these, among other, observations, the Court proceeded to rule, "we are constrained not to accept the apology tendered by the respondent (Oza)."

The Court, however, clarified that these observations will only be relevant to the question of whether Oza's apology is acceptable. They would not prejudice Oza in the course of the further consideration of the matter, the Bench said.

In the course of the Judgment, the Bench also infomred that it did not find it necessary to refer to the materials given by Advocate Amit Panchal in the matter, who had earlier sought to assist the court as an informer.

The matter has been listed to be taken up next on September 17.

Read the Judgment:

Suo Motu v. Yatin Narendra Oza - August 26 Judgment.pdf
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