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In a peculiar turn of events, a contempt case that may have been on the verge of being closed by the Telangana High Court was revived, thanks in part to a tantrum of sorts thrown by an Additional Advocate General (AAG) representing one of the contemnors.
The demeaning and disrespecting conduct of the AAG prompted the Court to hint that it may initiate contempt proceedings against the AAG as well.
The contempt case was initially brought before the Court in June 2018. On finding that that they were prima facie guilty of contempt, the Court issued notices under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 to the two accused contemnors – Secretary to Government Affairs V Niranjan Rao, and Secretary at the Legislature Secretariat Dr V Narasimhacharyulu.
Certain appeals filed in the case were thereafter dismissed as withdrawn before a Division Bench of the Court. This led the Division Bench to pass an order noting that since nothing survived in the matter, the Single Judge was at liberty to close the matter.
While this was the case, the matter was taken up by Justice Sankara Rao on February 8 this year, after it was adjourned once on February 2. When the matter came up, Justice Sankarao asked whether the two contemnors were present before the Court. Whereas an adjournment in the matter was sought for in the morning, the Court opined that it would not be appropriate to grant the adjournment in the absence of the contemnors.
Since the contemnors were not present, the appearing counsel sought for a passover. Consequently, the matter was taken up again in the afternoon at 2.20 pm the same day. However, this time as well the, contemnors were not present in Court.
Surprisingly, when the Court again asked about the presence of the contemnors, AAG Ramachander Rao is stated to have reacted scurrilously, opting to question the Court’s insistence on the contemnors’ personal appearance. As noted in the order of the Court,
“When the matter is called and [It was] asked whether R1 & R2 [are] present, the learned Additional Advocate General Sri Ramachander Rao reacted scurrilously upon the Court by vehemently saying, what nonsense that the Court is speaking for their presence when nothing survives, rather [the matter is to be] close [d].”
It is further recorded in the order that the Court attempted to convince the AAG to assist the Court as a responsible court officer, to no avail. The AAG’s response to this appeal by the Court is recorded thus:
“He reacted further vehemently that in the morning I did not consider to adjourn the matter, [and further] saying what havens will fall [and the matter would be closed] but for predetermined and prejudicial mind that too when Division Bench asked me to close the matter.”
The Court, however, appears to have stood firm in its stance that since notice has already been issued against the contemnors, they had a duty to appear before the Court. Further, the judge went on to point out that the Division Bench had not directed the single bench to close the matter per se. Rather, the Division Bench order only speaks of the Single Judge’s liberty to close the case. Justice Sankara Rao noted,
“… there is nothing even therein [in the Division Bench order] directing not to insist for appearance of the parties. In fact once Form-I notice is issued by drafting the proceedings and that is served, it is the duty of the contemnors to appear before the Court.”
However, the Court’s observations in this regard appears to have provoked the AAG to practically throw a copy of the Division Bench order to the court officer present. Undeterred, the Court has recorded that, even going by the Division Bench order, the discretion of the Single Judge in the case has not been taken away.
“… having gone through [the Division Bench order], what… it speaks…is it will now be open to the learned Single Judge to close the Contempt Case since nothing survives in this matter. There is nothing directing to close the contempt case, but [it is left]…open. There is nothing even in the judgment of the Division bench of dispensing with the presence of the Contemnors even after Form-I [notice] is issued.”
The Court went on to hold that the contemnors in the case cannot be allowed to evade the consequences of their contemptuous actions, merely because their contumacious conduct was in the past.
“…mere later dissolution of the State Assembly and subsequent fresh elections will not absolve them from the consequences for their past wilful disobedience to the order of the Court by their contumacious non-implementation There is nothing that can be said thereby that no cause survives to continue the proceedings, for the Division Bench did not close the present pending contempt of Court proceedings herein.”
In result, the Court decided to issue bailable warrants to the two contemnors and directed the police to produce them before Court on the morning of February 15. Moreover, taking objection to the AAG’s courtroom conduct, the Court has also recorded that it is reserving its right to proceed against him for contempt.
Read the order: