The Gujarat High Court has refused to accept the “unqualified and unconditional” apology tendered by Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association president Yatin Oza, saying it is “not bona fide” and “lacks sincerity”.
The High Court had initiated criminal contempt proceedings against Oza for making “scurrilous” remarks that the court deemed as undermining the authority of the courts.
Rejecting Oza’s apology, a division bench of the HC said this would send a “clear and loud message”. It held that “the liberty of free expression is not to be confused with license to make unfounded allegations against any institution much less the judiciary”.
The HC had initiated the criminal contempt proceedings following a press conference in June, which was live-streamed over Facebook, in which Oza had alleged “favouritism” and “forum shopping” by advocates and the administrative side of the court.
In its judgement on Wednesday, the HC noted his “repeated acts and conduct of contempt” in the past, from which the court concluded that his latest apology “is not bona fide and lacks sincerity and therefore, an unacceptable proposition”. These include instances of initiation of suo motu criminal contempt proceedings in 2006 and 2016 and apology rendered by Oza both times.
The court observed, “Every time scurrilous remarks against the Judges and the institution are made and when he realises that there is no escape route, the weapon of unconditional apology comes to his rescue. This was permitted in the past upkeeping a rich tradition of Kshama Virsya Bhushanam (forgiveness is the jewel of heroes)… if still permitted, this institution would be inviting for itself more and many such unsubstantiated, unsustainable and baseless attacks from various quarters. A clear and loud message is a must to be sent that we are open to every healthy criticism respecting the fundamental right of freedom of expression and at the same time, we are obligated not to permit any attempt to tarnish the image of the Institution and to despise and damage the prestige of the same and to demean the respect it enjoys by one and all…”
Objecting to the method adopted by Oza in airing his grievances by live-streaming over social media, the division bench of Justices Sonia Gokani and NV Anjaria observed, “We are neither satisfied with the genuineness of apology tendered before this court nor convinced of its bona fide nature of such apology and therefore, choose not to accept the same…. We cannot help but make a mention here that the entire proceeding was telecast live which we have made a part of our notice of contempt for the same to be viewed for its intensity, virulence and the intent declaring this august institution to have lost its trust of all concerned… it can be prima facie noticed that this entire sequence of events is bereft of any emotional outburst and contrarily, appears prima facie to be more guided by a definite and purposive object of attacking the Institute…”