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"Three Contemnors have no iota of Remorse & want to virtually hold Judiciary to Ransom": SC sentences 3 lawyers to 3 Months Imprisonment

The Court has sentenced Vijay Kurle, Rashid Khan Pathan and Nilesh Ojha to simple imprisonment of three months on account of contempt of court.

Debayan Roy

The Supreme Court has sentenced three lawyers Vijay Kurle, Rashid Khan Pathan and Nilesh Ojha, who were held guilty of contempt of court to simple imprisonment of three months even as they chose not to argue on sentence and instead assail the April 27 judgment.

The order was passed by a Bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose.

The three who were held guilty of contempt for making "scandalous and scurrilous" allegations against the judges of the Supreme Court were sentenced to three months simple imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2000 each.

However, the Court noted that the sentence would come into effect after COVID-19 subsides.

"Keeping in view the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown conditions we direct that this sentence shall come into force after 16 weeks from today when the contemnors should surrender before the Secretary General of this Court to undergo the imprisonment.Otherwise, warrants for their arrest shall be issued," ordered the two judge bench.

The genesis of the case is in a Supreme Court order passed in March last year, when advocate Mathews J Nedumpara was sentenced to three months in jail by a Bench led by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman 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 Kurle, Pathan and Ojha.

The contempt of court verdict was delivered on April 27 and the sentencing was slated to be delivered on May 1. However after the judgment, the order notes that one of the comtemnors, Nilesh Ojha, had filed an application for recusal of Justice Deepak Gupta.

Ojha had stated that the "bench was in a hurry to decide the matter."

The application for recusal of Justice Gupta was heard today as Justice Gupta is slated to demit office on May 6.

The two judge bench rejected the application and stated that there "was no reason for recusal."

The order also notes that post the April 27 verdict, Vijay Kurle and Rashid Khan Pathan too had filed recall applications for the verdict.

The main ground taken in the recall applications was that the April 27 judgment was contrary to the judgment rendered in Bal Thackrey vs. Harish Pimpalkhute and that the verdict was per incuriam and not as per the law laid down by this Court.

The two judge bench rejected all the applications and notes that all these contentions had already been addressed by the court.

The Court has stated that none of the comtemnors argued on sentence and instead challenged the verdict.

"There is not an iota of remorse or any semblance of apology on behalf of the contemnors. Since they have not argued on sentence, we have to decide the sentence without assistance of the contemnors," reads the order.

The Court stated that in view of the scurrilous and scandalous allegations levelled against the judges of this Court and "no remorse being shown by any of the contemnors we are of the considered view that they cannot be let off leniently".

"We have also held in our judgment that the complaints were sent by the contemnors with a view to intimidate the Judges who were yet to hear Shri Nedumpara on the question of punishment, so that no action against Shri Nedumpara is taken. Therefore, it is obvious that this is a concerted effort to virtually hold the Judiciary to ransom," said the two judge bench.

The notice for contempt was issued for filing frivolous complaints against Justices RF Nariman and Vineet Saran.

In this regard, the Bench had taken note of a letter sent to the President of India, the then Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi and the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court by the President of the Bombay Bar Association and the President of the Bombay Incorporated law Society, in which they highlighted the frivolous attempts made by the above-named lawyers and parties to terrorize and intimidate the judges.

A letter by Advocate Vijay Kurle, on behalf of one "Indian Bar Association" (to President of India, CJI, Bombay HC CJ) sought permission to prosecute the judges and withdrawal of judicial work from them for having passed a Judgment dated March 12, 2019 convicting Mathews Nedumpara for contempt of the Supreme Court.

A letter by Rashid Khan Pathan, claiming himself to be the National Secretary of the Human Rights Security Council, sought similar directions/ permissions against the judges for having passed another order in another matter. The Bombay Bar Association also said that the Indian Bar Association is not a recognised Bar Association and that it has reasons to believe that it is a self serving body floated by Advocates Nilesh Ojha and Vijay Kurle.

After examining the contents of the letters, Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose noted that “both the complaints are ex facie contemptuous. Highly scurrilous and scandalous allegations have been levelled against the two judges of this Court. In our view, the entire contents of the complaints amount to contempt."

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Vijay Kurle Sentencing Order.pdf
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