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