Criminal Contempt; Mahipal Singh Rana, Advocate Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh [Supreme Court of India, 05-07-2016]

Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 – Section 19 – Advocates Act, 1961 – Section 24A – Disqualification for enrolment – Professional misconduct – Court’s Jurisdiction – Statutory powers of the Bar Councils – Undesirability of convicted person to perform important public functions – Criminal Contempt for intimidating and threatening a Civil Judge (Senior Division), Etah – Conviction of the appellant is justified and is upheld – Sentence of imprisonment awarded to the appellant is set aside in view of his advanced age but sentence of fine and default sentence are upheld – Further direction that the appellant shall not be permitted to appear in courts in District Etah until he purges himself of contempt is also upheld – Under Section 24A of the Advocates Act, the enrollment of the appellant will stand suspended for two years from the date of this order – As a disciplinary measure for proved misconduct, the licence of the appellant will remain suspended for further five years.


IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

(ANIL R. DAVE) (KURIAN JOSEPH) AND (ADARSH KUMAR GOEL) JJ.

July 05, 2016

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 63 OF 2006

Mahipal Singh Rana, Advocate ….Appellant

VERSUS

State of Uttar Pradesh ….Respondent

J U D G M E N T

ANIL R. DAVE, J.

1. The present appeal is preferred under

Section 19 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

(hereinafter referred to as “the Act”) against the judgment and order dated 02.12.2005 delivered by the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad in Criminal Contempt Petition No. 16 of 2004, whereby the High Court found the appellant guilty of Criminal Contempt for intimidating and threatening a Civil Judge (Senior Division), Etah in his Court on 16.4.2003 and 13.5.2003 and sentenced him to simple imprisonment of two months with a fine of Rs. 2,000/- and in default of payment of the fine, the appellant to undergo further imprisonment of 2 weeks. The High Court further directed the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh to consider the facts contained in the complaint of the Civil Judge (Senior Division) Etah, and earlier contempt referred to in the judgement and to initiate appropriate proceedings against the appellant for professional misconduct.

Reference to larger Bench and the Issue

2. On 27th January, 2006, this appeal was admitted by this Court and that part of the impugned judgment, which imposed the sentence, was stayed and the appellant was directed not to enter the Court premises at Etah (U.P.). Keeping in view the importance of the question involved while admitting the appeal on 27th January, 2006, notice was directed to be issued to the Supreme Court Bar Association as well as to the Bar Council of India. The matter was referred to the larger Bench. Learned Solicitor General of India was requested to assist the Court in the matter.

3. On 6th March, 2013 restriction on entry of the appellant into the court premises as per order dated 27th January, 2006 was withdrawn. Thereby, the appellant was permitted to enter the court premises. The said restriction was, however, restored later. On 20th August, 2015, notice was issued to the Attorney General on the larger question whether on conviction under the Contempt of Courts Act or any other offence involving moral turpitude an advocate could be permitted to practise.

4. Thus following questions arise for consideration:

(i) Whether a case has been made out for interference with the order passed by the High Court convicting the appellant for criminal contempt and sentencing him to simple imprisonment for two months with a fine of Rs.2,000/- and further imprisonment for two weeks in default and debarring him from appearing in courts in judgeship at Etah; and

(ii) Whether on conviction for criminal contempt, the appellant can be allowed to practise.

The facts and the finding of the High Court

5. The facts of the present appeal discloses that the Civil Judge (Senior Division), Etah made a reference under Section 15 (2) of the Act to the High Court through the learned District Judge, Etah (U.P.) on 7.6.2003 recording two separate incidents dated 16.4.2003 and 13.5.2003, which had taken place in his Court in which the appellant had appeared before him and conducted himself in a manner which constituted “Criminal Contempt” under Section 2 (c) of the Act.

6. The said letter was received by the High Court along with a forwarding letter of the District Judge dated 7.6.2003 and the letters were placed before the Administrative Judge on 7.7.2003, who forwarded the matter to the Registrar General vide order dated 18.6.2004 for placing the same before the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the High Court and on 11.7.2004, the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the High Court referred the matter to the Court concerned dealing with contempt cases and notice was also issued to the appellant.

7. Facts denoting behaviour of the appellant, as recorded by the Civil Judge (Senior Division), Etah, can be seen from the contents of his letter addressed to the learned District Judge, Etah. The letter reads as under:-

“Sir,

It is humbly submitted that on 16.4.2003, while I was hearing the 6-Ga-2 in Original Suit No.114/2003 titled as “Yaduveer Singh Chauhan vs. The Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation”, Shri Mahipal Singh Rana, Advocate appeared in the Court, and, while using intemperate language, spoke in a loud voice: “How did you pass an order against my client in the case titled as “Kanchan Singh vs. Ratan Singh”? How did you dare pass such an order against my client? I tried to console him, but he started shouting in a state of highly agitated mind:

“Kanchan Singh is my relative and how was this order passed against my relative? No Judicial Officer has, ever, dared pass an order against me. Then, how did you dare do so? When any Judicial officer passes an order on my file against my client, I set him right. I shall make a complaint against you to Hon’ble High Court”, and he threatened me:

“I will not let you remain in Etah in future, I can do anything against you. I have relations with highly notorious persons and I can get you harmed by such notorious persons to the extent I want to do, and I myself am capable of doing any deed (misdeed) as I wish, and I am not afraid of any one. In the Court compound, even my shoes are worshipped and I was prosecuted in two murder cases. And I have made murderous assaults on people and about 15 to 20 cases are going on against me. If you, in future, dare pass an order on the file against my client in which I am a counsel, it will not be good for you”.

Due to the above mentioned behaviour of Shri Mahipal Singh Rana, Advocate, the judicial work was hindered and aforesaid act of Shri Mahipal Singh falls within the ambit of committing the contempt of Court. In this very succession, on 13.5.2003, while I was hearing 6-Ga-2 in the O.S. No. No. 48/2003 titled as “Roshanlal v Nauvat Ram”, Shri Mahipal Singh Rana Advocate appeared in the Court and spoke in a loud voice:

“Why did you not get the OS No. 298/2001 title as ‘Jag Mohan vs. Smt. Suman’ called out so far, whereas the aforesaid case is very important, in as much as I am the plaintiff therein”. I said to Shri Mahipal Singh Rana, Advocate:

“Hearing of a case is going on. Thereafter, your case will be called out for hearing”, thereupon he got enraged and spoke:

“Thatc ase will be heard first which I desire to be heard first. Nothing is done as per your desire. Even an advocate does not dare create a hindrance in my case. I shall get the case decided which I want and that case will never be decided, which I do not want. You cannot decide any case against my wishes”.

Meanwhile when the counsel for Smt. Suman in O.S. No. 298/2001 titled as “Jag Mohan vs. Smt. Suman” handed some papers over to Shri Mahipal Singh Rana, Advocate for receiving the same, he threw those papers away and misbehaved with the counsel for Smt. Suman. Due to this act of Shri Mahipal Singh Rana, the judicial work was hindered and his act falls within the ambit of committing the contempt of Court. Your good self is therefore requested that in order to initiate proceedings relating to committing the contempt of Court against Shri Mahipal Singh Rana, Advocate, my report may kindly be sent to the Hon’ble High Court by way of REFERENCE”.

With regards,”

8. On the same day, the learned Civil Judge (Senior Division) also wrote another letter to the Registrar-General of the High Court, giving some more facts regarding contemptuous behaviour of the appellant with a request to place the facts before the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the High Court so that appropriate action under the Act may be taken against the appellant. As the aforestated letters refer to the facts regarding behaviour of the appellant, we do not think it necessary to reiterate the same here.

9. Ultimately, in pursuance of the information given to the High Court, proceedings under the Act had been initiated against the appellant.

10. Before the High Court, it was contended on behalf of the appellant that it was not open to the Court to proceed against the appellant under the provisions of the Act because if the behaviour of the appellant was not proper or he had committed any professional misconduct, the proper course was to take action against the appellant under the provisions of the Advocates Act, 1961. It was also contended that summary procedure under the Act could not have been followed by the Court for the purpose of punishing the appellant. Moreover, it was also submitted that the appellant was not at all present before the learned Civil Judge (Senior Division), Etah on 16.4.2003 and 13.5.2003.

11. Ultimately, after hearing the parties concerned, the High Court did not accept the defence of the appellant and after considering the facts of the case, it delivered the impugned judgment whereby punishment has been imposed upon the appellant. The High Court observed:

“22. Extraordinary situations demand extraordinary remedies. The subordinate courts in Uttar Pradesh are witnessing disturbing period. In most of the subordinate courts, the Advocates or their groups and Bar Associations have been virtually taken over the administration of justice to ransom. These Advocates even threaten and intimidate the Judges to obtain favourable orders. The Judicial Officers often belonging to different districts are not able to resist the pressure and fall prey to these Advocates. This disturbs the equilibrium between Bar and the Bench giving undue advantage and premium to the Bar. In these extraordinary situations the High Court can not abdicate its constitutional duties to protect the judicial officers.

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24. ……………The criminal history of the contemnor, the acceptance of facts in which his actions were found contumacious and he was discharged on submitting apologies on two previous occasions, and the allegations against him in which he was found to continue with intimidating the judicial officers compelled us to issue interim orders restraining his entry of the contemnor in the judgeship at Etah. The Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh, is fully aware of his activities but has chosen not to take any action in the matter. In fact the Bar Council hardly takes cognizance of such matters at all. The Court did not interfere with the statutory powers of the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh to take appropriate proceedings against the contemnor with regard to his right of practice, and did not take away right of practice vested in him by virtue of his registration with the Bar Council. He was not debarred from practice but was only restrained to appear in the judgeship at Etah in the cases he was engaged as an Advocate. The repeated contumacious conduct, without any respect to the Court committed by him repeatedly by intimidating and brow beating the judicial officers, called for maintaining discipline, protecting the judicial officers and for maintaining peace in the premises of judgeship at Etah.

25. Should the High Court allow such advocate to continue to terrorise, brow beat and bully the judicial officers? It is submitted that he has a large practice. We are not concerned here whether the contemnor or such advocates are acquiring large practice by intimidating judicial officers. These are questions to be raised before the Bar Council. We, however, must perform our constitutional duty to protect our judicial officers. This is one such case illustrated in para 78, of the Supreme Court Bar Association’s case (supra), in which the occasion had arisen to prevent the contemnor to appear before courts at Etah. The withdrawal of such privilege did not amount to suspending or revoking his licence to practice as an advocate in other courts or tribunal, drafting the petitions and advising his clients. It only prevented him from intimidating the judicial officers and from vitiating the atmosphere conducive for administration of justice in the judgeship at Etah.

31. The Supreme Court held that Section 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act, has to be construed in a manner which would avoid anomaly and hardships both as regards the litigant as also by placing a pointless fetter on the part of the court to punish for its contempt. In Pallav Seth the custodian received information of the appellant having committed contempt of taking over benami concerns, transferring funds to these concerns and operating their accounts, from a letter dated 5.5.1998, received from the Income Tax Authorities. Soon thereafter on 18.6.1998 a petition was filed for initiating action in contempt and notices were issued by the Court on 9.4.1999. The Supreme Court found that on becoming aware of the forged applications the contempt proceedings were filed on 18.6.1998 well within the period of limitation prescribed by Section 20 of the Act. The action taken by the special court by its order dated 9.4.1999 directing the applications to be treated as show cause notice, was thus valid and that the contempt action was not barred by Section 20 of the Act.

32. In the present case the alleged contempt was committed in the court of Shri Onkar Singh Yadav, Civil Judge (Senior Division) Etah on 16.4.2003 and 13.5.2003. The officer initiated the proceedings by making reference to the High Court through the District Judge vide his letters dated 7.6.2003, separately in respect of the incidents. These letters were received by the Court with the forwarding letter of the District Judge dated 1.6.2003 and were placed before Administrative Judge on 7.7.2003, who returned the matter to the Registrar General with his order dated 18.6.2004 to be placed before Hon’ble the Chief Justice and that by his order dated 11.7.2004, Hon’ble the Chief Justice referred the matter to court having contempt determination. Show cause notices were issued by the court to the contemnor on 28.10.2004. In view of the law as explained in Pallav Seth (supra) the contempt proceedings would be taken to be initiated on 7.6.2003 by the Civil Judge (Senior Division) Etah, which was well within the period of one year from the date of the incidents prescribed under Section 20 of the Act.

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36. We do not find that the contemnor Shri Mahipal Singh Rana is suffering from any mental imbalance. He is fully conscious of his actions and take responsibility of the same. He suffers from an inflated ago, and has a tremendous superiority complex and claims himself to be a champion for the cause of justice, and would not spare any effort, and would go to the extent of intimidating the judges if he feels the injustice has been done to his client. We found ourselves unable to convince him that the law is above every one, and that even if he is an able lawyer belonging to superior caste, he could still abide by the dignity of court and the decency required from an advocate appearing in any court of law.

37. The due administration of law is of vastly greater importance than the success or failure of any individual, and for that reason public policy as well as good morals require that every Advocate should keep attention to his conduct. An Advocate is an officer of the Court apart of machinery employed for administration of justice, for meeting out to the litigants the exact measure of their legal rights. He is guilty of a crime if he knowingly sinks his official duty, in what may seem to be his own or his clients temporary advantage.

38. We find that the denial of incidents and allegations of malafides against Shri Onkar Singh Yadav, the then Civil Judge (Senior Division) Etah have been made only to save himself from the contumacious conduct.

39. Shri Mahipal Singh Rana, the contemnor has refused to tender apologies for his conduct. His affidavit in support of stay vacation/modification and supplementary affidavit do not show any remorse. He has justified himself again and again, in a loud and thundering voice.

40. We find that Shri Mahipal Rana the contemnor is guilty of criminal contempt in intimidation and threatening Shri Onkar Singh Yadav the then Civil Judge (Senior Division) Etah in his court on 16.4.2003 and 13.5.2003 and of using loud and indecent language both in court and in his pleadings in suit No. 515/2002. He was discharged from proceeding of contempt in Criminal Contempt Petition No. 21/1998 and Criminal Contempt No. 60 of 1998 on his tendering unconditionally apology on 3.8.1999 and 11.11.2002 respectively. He however did not mend himself and has rather become more aggressive and disrespectful to the court. He has virtually become nuisance and obstruction to the administration of justice at the Judgeship at Etah. We are satisfied that the repeated acts of criminal contempt committed by him are of such nature that these substantially interfere with the due course of justice. We thus punish him under Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971, with two months imprisonment and also impose fine of Rs. 2000/- on him. In case non-payment of fine he will undergo further a period of imprisonment of two weeks. However, the punishment so imposed shall be kept in abeyance for a period of sixty days to enable the contemner Shri Rana to approach the Hon’ble Supreme Court, if so advised.

41. We also direct the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh to take the facts constituted in the complaints of Shri Onkar Singh Yadav, the then Civil Judge (Senior Division) Etah, the two earlier contempts referred in this judgment, and to draw proceedings against him for professional misconduct.

42. Under the Rules of this Court, the contemnor shall not be permitted to appear in courts in the Judgeship at Etah, until he purges the contempt.

43. The Registrar General shall draw the order and communicate it to the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh and Bar Council of India within a week. The contemnor shall be taken into custody to serve the sentence immediately of the sixty days if no restrain order is passed by the appellate court.”