The Gujarat High Court had held Adv. Yatin Oza, President of GHCAA, guilty under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. The Court had imposed a fine of ₹2,000 and sentenced him till rising of the Court. Therefore, the Advocates’ Association has passed a resolution to appeal against the order in the Supreme Court.
During a Facebook Live Conference in June 2020, the President of the GHCAA, Adv. Yatin Oza remarked that the High Court Registry practised favouritism and nepotism. He alleged that only the cases rich and resourceful were listed for hearing, turning a blind eye towards the urgent matters filed by junior advocates. To these statements, the Court took suo moto cognizance and initiated contempt proceedings under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
Further, Adv. Oza approached the Supreme Court challenging the contempt notice issued by the High Court. However, the apex court recused itself and directed the matter to the division bench of the Gujarat High Court. The High Court, later, rejected the unconditional apology tendered by Adv. Oza on the grounds of ‘lack of sincerity’. The Court also recalled the Full Bench decision of 1999 that designated him as a ‘Senior Advocate’.
Therefore, the High Court issued an operative order on 06.10.2020. Subsequently, it decided the matter under Article 215 of the Constitution and Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
The impugned order was pronounced by the division bench on 06.10.2020. The bench held Adv. Yatin Oza of criminal contempt under Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. It remarked- “No one has become so big than the institution itself that in the name of taking up the cause of advocates, he or she can go to any extent of tarnishing the image of the institution by his expression and utterances.”
It observed that the allegations sent a loud and clear message to the common man, misplacing one’s faith in the institution of judiciary. Further, the Court Registry is an indispensable part of the Court and is included in the meaning of ‘court’ as defined under Section 2(c)(i) of the said Act. Moreover, the Court rejected the defence of truth and the application of Article 19of the Constitution. The Court never received any complaints of malpractices or system that favoured the rich. The right to freedom of speech is enshrined in the interest of integrity, decency, and morality and hence, not be based on unverified reporting. It relied on the Supreme Court judgement in Sanjay Narayan v. High Court of Allahabad.
Statement by the GHCAA
The Advocates’ Association has passed a resolution and issued a press note on 09.10.2020. It asserted- “The Members of the Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association feel that GHCAA should intervene in the proceedings before the Hon’ble Supreme Court to support Shri Yatin Oza, President, GHCAA in WP (Civil) No. 734 of 2020 and also in Appeal that may be filed against the Order in Contempt proceedings.”
The contempt proceedings against Adv. Prashant Bhushan is another recent case under the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971. The Supreme Court held him guilty and imposed a fine of Re. 1 for criminal contempt. Therefore, it may be the time for the Legislature to revisit the provisions of the Act, inter alia, the meaning of ‘courts’ under Section 2(c)(i). While deciding any matter under the said Act, the courts have inferred it in both the roles, judicial and administrative. Further, the judicial side is also extended to the remarks made on the personal choices of the judges. Thus, the ambiguity in the language of the Act has led to multiplicity in contempt proceedings.
Click here to read the full statement.
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