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.

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