Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Every Indian who loves democracy is shocked over throwing of shoes by a lady litigant at Justice Arijit Pasayat of the Supreme Court of India when he was hearing a case involving the lady on Mach 20. She was instantly punished with imprisonment for contempt.

But the issue has been preferred for review by a different bench when the second member of the bench hearing the case, Justice Asok Kumar Ganguli could not approve of the punishment as to him instant punishment was not in consonance with natural justice. The lady should have been heard on why she threw the shoe.

This, to a common man, seems indicative of contradiction that the Apex Court is living with.

In the Court room of the highest judiciary of the country a woman throws her shoes at a Judge. What more severe could have been the display of contempt?

If it is not instantly punishable by the judge, judges may feel insecure in handling tricky questions and crafty persons may succeed in their design to intimidate the members of judiciary.

If at all the new bench looking into the matter feels that the punished lady should have been given opportunity to defend herself, should she then not be encouraged to defend the contempt she executed against the hearing judge?

I am afraid, if best of judicial foresight is not invoked, the result may lead to judicial anarchy.

However, the Supreme Court need inform the peoples of this country, in this peculiar situation, as to if Justice Ganguli, constituting the bench with Justice Pasayat, in differing with the contempt taken into cognizance by the later, has done so on his perception that the intimidating contempt publicly shown against his brother judge is not a contempt shown against the Court.

If contempt against an individual judge is not contempt against the Court, the lady should be heard as to why she was so full of wrath against the individual judge and on her explanation, law should be allowed to take its own course between two individuals: she at one end and Sri Pasayat at the other.

It may be pertinent to refer here to a contempt proceeding pending for years in the Orissa High Court. The proceeding is drawn against Sri Narayan Patra, father of a woman murdered by her in-laws. Patra had alleged in the Court that certain Judges thereof were in criminal nexus with the in-laws of his daughter in the murder case. He has named the Judges. In responding to the contempt proceedings, he has stated that he has no contempt against the Court; but he has raised the allegation against the judges that have corrupted the Court. Raising allegations against individual Judges that have played havoc with the credibility of the Court by being in nexus with criminals cannot be read as contempt against the Court, he has stated. After his statement the High Court has slept over its contempt proceeding and thus it is pending for around twelve years!

It is therefore proper for the Apex court to decide as to whether contempt / allegation / wrath expressed against individual judges under particular circumstances would be considered as contempt against Courts.

If the lady had no intention to intimidate Justice Pasayat on the bench but like Narayan Patra she has suffered any injury in course of justice for which she holds the judge personally responsible, punishment will not end the contempt; though judicial introspection may help build up the environment where no Judge would earn contempt.



Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Secretary Madhusudan Padhi,IAS and Director Suman Mohapatra, OES of Higher Education under Government of Orissa are refused the luxury of waiver on cash penalty and jail in default imposed on both of them by the Orissa High Court for their individual role against the Rules of the land in matter of regularization of service of a private college laboratory attendant.

The report on the court’s original order was published in these pages on January 31.

Found guilty of contempt shown to the Court’s competent orders for fitment of applicant Debendranath Barik, working in J.N.College of Kuanpal since May 25,1993, into the legitimate scale of pay and clearance of his dues within a stipulated time, the Court had given these officers an award of cash penalty of Rs.10, 000.00 each that they were to pay within seven days failing which imprisonment for a month was to commence.

Instead of making the payment, they wanted the contempt punishment inoperative by expressing their preference to go to the Supreme Court against the contempt order. The Government lawyer appearing on behalf of them pleaded for time to deposit the money. That was rejected.

From the role played by the government lawyer in the instant case it is clear that the state government protects both these officers and if they are to pay the cash penalty, the state exchequer is to bear the expense.

The Court has taken cognizance of contempt against these two officers because of their personal contemptuous conduct and has dovetailed the cash penalty with imprisonment on default. These two officers are therefore personally convicted of contempt and if they do not pay the awarded amount in cash, they are to be taken into the prison personally.

So, how does the government come in? How does the government pleader appears for them and assures to pay the cash and begs for time?

The government has been asked by the Court to desist from discriminating against an employee and to pay him his dues by fitting him into legitimate scale of pay with retrospective effect. Government is bound to honor that order or is competent to move the Apex Court in appeal against that. But it has no role in contempt against the High Court. The two top officers have personally failed to comply with the Court’s direction to them and / or to inform the court personally as to who debarred them from implementing of the Courts direction, even though they were given adequate opportunity for that.

Habit of ignoring the authority of law has made them so bold that they even did not take the Court’s order for personal presence to apprise the Court of the reasons of non-implementation of its order worthy of attention.

Viewed from any angle the action of the two officers cannot but be contemptuous against the highest judiciary of the state.

If the Court is to entertain the government lawyer in contempt proceeding against these two officers, it should accept that the State Government, meaning the Chief Minister himself has abetted with the crime of contempt against the Court. If the two officers, in order to avoid imprisonment at the last moment, make payment of the cash penalty from the state exchequer it should have only one meaning and that is, the Chief Minister and /or whosoever sanctions the amount from the State Exchequer is guilty of the contempt.

The High Court in the instant case has basically taken a very principled stand. It should not allow the taxpayers to be punished for the contempt committed against it by individual functionaries.

Tethering official law-breakers is good; but better is taking to task their collaborators.