The Supreme Court today found advocate Mathews Nedumpara guilty of contempt of court.
The Court also dismissed a plea filed by National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms challenging the current system of the designation of lawyers as Senior Advocates.
Notice has been issued to Nedumpara returnable in two weeks, to decide the quantum of punishment.
The judgment was delivered by a Bench of Justices Rohinton Nariman and Vineet Saran.
The Court, in its judgment, took note of the submissions made by Nedumpara during the course of the hearing, which ultimately led to the Court finding him guilty of contempt. Nedumpara “attempted to browbeat the Court” and attempted to embarrass one of the judges on the Bench, Justice Nariman, the judgment states.
When the matter was heard on March 5, 2019, Nedumpara had apparently referred to Senior Advocate Fali Nariman in his submissions.
This had irked Justice Rohinton Nariman, who told Nedumpara,
“Why did you take Mr. Nariman’s name? What has Fali Nariman got to do with this case? We will take contempt action against you.”
Nedumpara, in an attempt to placate the Court said that he, in fact, did not take Mr. Fali Nariman’s name, at which point Justice Rohinton Nariman said,
“The whole courtroom heard you take his name, they’ll file affidavits.”
The judgment in this regard states,
“We are of the view that the only reason for taking the learned Senior Advocate’s name, without there being any relevance to his name in the present case, is to browbeat the Court and embarrass one of us. Shri Nedumpara then proceeded to make various statements unrelated to the matter at hand. He stated that, “Your Lordships have enormous powers of contempt, and Tihar Jail is not so far.””
The judgment authored by Justice Nariman also makes observations about Nedumpara’s previous conduct in Court, noting that this was not the first time that Nedumpara had tried to “browbeat the Court”. The judgment also mentions the previous times when Nedumpara “misconducted himself” before the Debts Recovery Tribunal and the Bombay High Court.
“The style of this particular advocate is to go on arguing, quoting Latin maxims, and when he finds that the Court is not with him, starts becoming abusive. We also find that this advocate is briefed to appear in hopeless cases and attempts, by browbeating the Court, to get discretionary orders, which no Court is otherwise prepared to give.”
In the judgment, it is noted that Nedumpara’s conduct was “calculated to defeat the administration of justice” and in the face of such actions, the Court shall take action.
“When contempt is committed in the face of the Court, judges’ hands are not tied behind their backs. The majesty of this Court as well as the administration of justice both demand that contemptuous behavior of this kind be dealt with sternly.”
Thus, the Court found Nedumpara guilty of contempt.
The judgment states that while the Court could have awarded punishment through this order itself, it is only issuing notice in the contempt proceedings at the moment in the interest of justice. However, the Court made its intent amply clear by saying that such conduct deserves “severe punishment”.
“Conduct of this kind deserves punishment which is severe. Though we could have punished Shri Nedumpara by this order itself, in the interest of justice, we issue notice to Shri Nedumpara as to the punishment to be imposed upon him for committing contempt in the face of the Court. Notice returnable within two weeks from today.”
The writ petition filed by National Lawyers Campaign to do away with the system of Senior Advocates was termed as a “second review” of the judgment rendered by the Supreme Court in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India. Thus, the Court dismissed the same, noting that an Article 32 petition does not lie against the judgments of the Court.
The Court concluded by stating that Senior Designations cannot be made as a matter of bounty or as a matter of right.
Read the Judgment: