Holding 11 advocates guilty of unruly behaviour inside the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM) in Sonbhadra in 2013, the Allahabad High Court has sentenced them to three months in jail. The HC also slapped on them a fine of Rs 2,000, failure to pay which would attract another two months imprisonment.
The HC also directed that beginning July 10, these lawyers would not be allowed to enter the court premises for six months.
After that, their behaviour would be kept under watch for two years and any unwarranted act on their part would be referred to the HC by the District Judge suo motu, the court said.
A division bench of Justices Sudhir Agarwal and Dinesh Gupta passed the order on Thursday in a criminal contempt application against advocates Mahendra Prasad Shukla, then Secretary (DBA, Sonbhadra) and others.
The court took cognisance of the matter when a reference letter by ACJM Amit Kumar Prajapati was sent to the HC on April 15, 2013. As per the reference letter, the ACJM was conducting judicial work in the post-lunch session in his courtroom on April 12, 2013, where some other lawyers were present in connection with their applications.
Suddenly, Shukla, and other lawyers including Om Prakash Rai and Om Prakash Pathak, along with 15-20 other advocates reached the court room and queried as to how the court was functioning, when a strike call had been given by the advocates on April 11.
The ACJM told them that the court could never be on strike and those wanting to work cannot be forced to shun the same.
The lawyers then resorted to sloganeering, use of abusive language, leading to deferment of proceedings.
Taking cognisance of the matter, the HC asked the District Judge to identify the other lawyers, who were involved in disturbing the court.
The District Judge identified at least eight other advocates —- Shesh Narain Dikshit, Prabhakar Ram Chaubey, Kalp Nath Singh, Shiv Raj Singh, Brij Kishor Singh, Satya Deo Pandey, Atma Prakash Tripathi and Chandra Prakash Chaubey.
The HC framed charges against these advocates on April 9, 2015.
The lawyers denied the charges against them taking various pleas. Some claimed that they were not present at the scene others said they were being framed due to enmity with other lawyers and that the lower court was biased. They also challenged the proceedings on technical grounds.
However, during the course of proceedings all the lawyers charged with criminal contempt also tendered unconditional apology to the judicial officer concerned. But the ACJM noted that this was not the first time the lawyers had behaved in that matter.
The court dismissed the pleas of the lawyers and said that acts could not be justified in any manner.
The court said: “They appear to have assumed that though court below is an independent judicial authority but in one or other way, subordinate to them, bound to obey their resolution, howsoever, illegal it is. This attitude and assumption on the part of the Bar Association in general, and contemnors 1 to 3 in particular, is per se not only illegal but amounts to a gross criminal contempt on their part.”
The court also pointed out that time and again, the Supreme Court had made it clear that strike was illegal, as such.