Gujarat High Court
Gujarat High Court
Litigation News

"Trapped in his own net", Gujarat HC initiates contempt against bail applicant who hired man to pose as MLA to influence Judge via phonecall

"An unsuccessful attempt of the applicant to obtain anticipatory bail de hors following the due process of law, has not only invited the ire of the Court but has rendered himself prima facie liable for contempt."

Meera Emmanuel

A bail applicant before the Gujarat High Court has landed himself in contempt proceedings after it came to light that he had hired a man to pose as an MLA trying to influence the judge via phone call (Shah Vijaybhai Arvindbhai v. State of Gujarat).

"In the instant case, the applicant who is shown as the accused in connection with the FIR in question, was desirous of obtaining the order of anticipatory bail anyhow, has been trapped in his own net laid for trapping others."
- the Gujarat High Court found.

It began with 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. During the hearing, the judge also questioned the bail applicant concerned, i.e., Shah Vijaybhai Arvindbhai, whether he knew MLA Niranjan Patel.

Through his counsel, Shah denied any acquaintance with the MLA. Further, he also submitted that the MLA was trying to get him arrested. However, at the end of the probe, the Court eventually found out this week that,

"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."
Gujarat High Court

The trail of events unearthed

Following a preliminary probe with the aid of the Registrar (IT), the Court found that the call had been made from the mobile phone of one, Tofikbhai Vhora.

Police investigation found that the call was actually made by a third person named Alpesh Rameshbhai Patel on Vohra's phone.

Alpesh told the Court that he had been instructed by Shah to make the call while posing as MLA Niranjan Patel. He further stated that Shah had promised him monetary compensation as well for the task.

Whereas he was advised to make the call through an STD/PCO shop, Alpesh finally made the call after borrowing Vohra's mobile phone to do the same.

To substantiate these claims, Alpesh also submitted Whatsapp messages exchanged between him and the mobile number stated to be owned by Shah.

The Judge's decision to launch an inquiry into the call itself led Shah to caution Alpesh to be careful, following which Alpesh attempted to run away. However, his attempt proved unsuccessful and he was arrested by the Police earlier this week, the High Court's order records.

Cannot defend client anymore, Lawyers tell Court

Once the deceptive scheme was unearthed, the counsel appearing for Shah proceeded to disassociate themselves from their former client. As recorded in the Court's judgment passed on Friday,

"Today, when the matter was taken up for hearing, the learned Sr. Advocate Mr.N. D. Nanavati and the learned Advocate Mr.Dagli appearing for the applicant categorically stated that they can not defend the applicant any more, having regard to the facts and circumstances, which have come on record."

The judge went on to note Shah had was yet to deny the version of events forwarded against him by Alpeshbhai. However, this may have been because the lawyers appearing for him refused to make any further submissions to defend the applicant.

Bail applicant is prima facie guilty of contempt, finds Court

The Court ultimately found that both Shah and Alpeshbhai were liable to face contempt proceedings given that,

"... it clearly emerges that in a well designed but ill­-motivated mission to get the order of anticipatory bail, the applicant Vijay Shah had tried to implicate Mr. Niranjanbhai Patel who according to Mr. Dagli (former lawyer) was his rival in the case and tried to mislead the Court. However, an unsuccessful attempt of applicant to obtain the order of anticipatory bail de hors following the due process of law, has not only invited the ire of the Court but has rendered himself along with the said Alpesh Patel prima facie liable for committing contempt of Court."

Any such attempt to corrupt or to fail the Justice delivery system has to be dealt with very stringently, Justice Trivedi said, adding that, "judicial functions cannot be and should not be permitted to be obstructed or hindered by the malpractices or tactics of the litigants or of their counsels."

The Judge, in her June 26 order, mused that Shah may have assumed that by making a call while posing to be a rival MLA, "he would win the sympathy of the Court and would get the anticipatory bail, or the Court might transfer the case on being prejudiced by such call made in the name of Niranjanbhai Patel, MLA."

However, this only served to draw further condemnation from the Court and a dismissal of the original plea for anticipatory bail.

"Such conduct on the part of the applicant is highly deplorable and unpardonable. The application of the applicant who has no respect for the Justice delivery system and no regards for truth cannot be entertained any further and deserves to be dismissed on that ground alone."
Gujarat High Court

Having dismissed the plea, the Court proceeded to issue contempt notices to both Shah and Alpeshbhai, returnable by July 10. The matter has been posted before the Chief Justice so that it may be heard by a Division Bench of the Court in line with the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

Read the Orders:

Shah Vijaybhai Arvindbhai v. State of Gujarat - Judgment - June 26.pdf
Shah Vijaybhai Arvindbhai v. State of Gujarat - June 25 order.pdf
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