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The Supreme Court today stayed the operation of a Delhi High Court order that had found Advocate Seema Sapra guilty of contempt of court back in 2015.
The High Court had sentenced Seema Sapra to one-month imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 2,000. Sapra was also barred from arguing before any Court or Tribunal subordinate to the High Court for a period of two years.
The Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi issued fresh notice in the case, while admitting the appeal. The Court also stayed the operation of the High Court’s order while noting that the period of two years for which Sapra was barred stands lapsed. The order states,
“As it appears from the record that two years period for which the appellant has been restrained from appearing in the High Court of Delhi and Courts Subordinate thereunder in terms of the impugned judgment is already over, nevertheless we consider it appropriate to stay the effect of the impugned judgment and order dated 17th December, 2015 until disposal of the appeal. Accordingly, prayer for stay is disposed of in the above terms.”
Sapra was charged with contempt after she made allegations of corruption against Justice Vibhu Bakhru of the Delhi High Court. Her allegation was that the constitution of a Bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Vibhu Bakhru was done in an improper manner and “deceptively”. She had then accused Justice Bakhru of corruption in open court, and persisted with her accusation despite warning from the Bench.
The High Court Bench then passed an order charging her with criminal contempt punishable under Section 14(1) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. Subsequently, the contempt case was heard by another Bench on Sapra’s request.
During the hearing of the appeal in the Supreme Court, Sapra made a request for Justice Khanwilkar to recuse from hearing the appeal on the ground that he was well acquainted with certain members of the Supreme Court Bar Association, against whom she had made complaints. This oral request was made by Sapra after the Bench had heard the matter for two hours. The request was, nevertheless, considered and rejected.
While addressing this request in the judgment, it was observed that three judges of the Supreme Court have had to recuse from this case for one reason or another, while as many as 28 judges of the Delhi High Court had to recuse themselves by the time the petition was finally decided.
“it is noticed from the impugned judgment that around 28 Judges of the High Court of Delhi, who had heard the writ petition filed by the appellant, had to recuse by the time the writ petition was finally decided on 2nd March, 2015. Even after filing of the instant criminal appeal at least three Judges of this Court have recused themselves, for one reason or the other.”
The Bench said that while it is open for a judge to recuse himself from a case entrusted upon him by the Chief Justice of India, in this matter, the request appears to be devoid of merit. The judgment adds,
” It must never be forgotten that an impartial Judge is the quintessence for a fair trial and one should not hesitate to recuse if there are just and reasonable grounds. At the same time, one cannot be oblivious of the duty of a Judge which is to discharge his responsibility with absolute earnestness, sincerity and being true to the oath of his/her office.”
Sapra had also taken objection to Senior Advocate Vikas Singh being made Amicus Curiae in the matter. She then filed an application seeking ASG Pinky Anand as Amicus. The same was allowed by the Court.
While issuing fresh notice to the respondents in the case, the Court also disposed of a number of applications filed by Sapra in connection with the case.
Read the judgment: