Have you ever heard of a court staff “hijacking” judicial proceedings? The peculiar situation was witnessed last week at the Tis Hazari courts complex here when a special court dealing with corruption cases was recording the evidence of a CBI witness from Kolkata through live video conferencing and a stenographer abruptly walked out, telling the court that she was leaving and her cab was waiting outside.
Taking strong note of the act, the court said the woman stenographer dared to “disrespect the chair” and “undermined the authority” of the court by leaving a live hearing. The court, which described the scene created by the stenographer as a “very sorry state of affairs”, said she “hijacked” a live video conference proceedings in the presence of several lawyers, giving a “very shabby impression” to the public at large present there.
The judge, who recorded in detail the conduct of the stenographer in the order, said the court staff created hindrance to the proceedings and the presiding officer as well as lawyers present in the room had to sit idle till another stenographer arrived. “It is pertinent to mention that court had to wait for another 510 minutes for arrangement of other stenographer. The scene created by the stenographer… gave an impression as if the proceedings have been hijacked and the same had to be stopped,” the judge said in a written order.
The incident happened last week when the stenographer got up at 4:25 PM and said she wanted to leave as her cab was waiting outside. When the judge reminded her that the court timing were not yet over, she responded saying that by the time she marks her attendance at the superintendent’s office before leaving, it will be 5 PM.
Giving further details of the incident in the order, the judge said the woman was warned that she cannot leave in between the proceedings even when the other stenographer, who had a fractured leg, was doing his pending work in the regular court room.
The judicial officer said the regular stenographer could have medical complications if he was called in the video conferencing room with his fractured leg. Without paying heed to it, the woman staffer said “mujhe jaana hai, mujhe jaana hai (I need to leave, I need to leave)”, and told the presiding officer that he may call another stenographer from the administration officer, the judge noted in the order.
The order noted that she was again warned by the judge but “she continued with her adamancy to go and started arguing” inside the court room in the presence of several lawyers. She also said she was suffering from pain in her right hand and had complained about it during the recording of the witness’ statement.
Terming the stenographer’s act as a gross misconduct amounting to dereliction of duty, the judge said it also led to undermining the authority of the court and disrespect to the chair. The judge sent the matter to the District and Sessions Judge (Headquarters), the head of lower judiciary, for taking appropriate action against the delinquent staff. “Though contempt of the court proceedings could have been initiated by this court to maintain the judicial decorum, but this court opted not to chose the same in order to maintain judicial restraints and instead thought it appropriate that the matter should be reported to the District and Sessions Judge (HQ),” the court said.
After some time, the woman staffer returned to the court room, prompting the judge to ask why she was back again. The judge said “it is not her whims or choice to opt for work or not to do work or shirk work” and asked her to report to the superintendent. The court then informed administrative officials about the situation. The court proceedings resumed when the regular stenographer arrived with the help of a walker and completed the work.