HC comes down closely on lawyer for maligning repute of judiciary

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HC comes down heavily on lawyer for maligning reputation of judiciary

Judges impose costs of ₹5 lakh, initiate criminal contempt and bar him from practice

The Madras High Court on Monday came down heavily on an advocate for filing a case to dislodge its Registrar (Vigilance) R. Poornima from the post on the basis of a false claim that she had not passed higher secondary examinations.

The court pulled him up also for getting details of his case published in sections of the media even before it could be listed for hearing.

Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy directed the litigant B. Sathishkumar of Chennai to pay ₹5 lakh in costs to Ms. Poornima in six weeks or end up facing revenue recovery proceedings by the jurisdictional Collector. They also initiated suo motu criminal contempt of court proceedings against him.

Barred from practice

The first Division Bench barred the petitioner from practising before any judicial forum until the conclusion of the contempt proceedings. It directed him to appear before it on October 20 for framing of charges and proceeding further with the matter. The judges said they intend to take some serious steps regarding the role played by the media too.

The petitioner had claimed that Ms. Poornima had completed her Class X examinations in 1982 and then obtained graduation from University of Madras and a law degree from Mysore before getting appointed as a District Judge in December 2010. He claimed she had not pursued higher secondary course.

However, on verification of her service records, the judges found she had completed Class XII from Bethlehem Girls Higher Secondary School in Ooty in 1984.

When the Chief Justice asked the litigant’s counsel on what basis did his client make such a “patently false” statement on affidavit before the court and also got it published in some newspapers causing irreparable damage to the reputation of a judicial officer, the lawyer had no convincing reply. The CJ pointed out that the news was circulated widely on social media too.

He said it was evident that the petitioner had motivated reasons behind filing the case and he had deliberately presented false facts to make defamatory statements as if Ms. Poornima had usurped the office of a judicial officer. This was clearly an irresponsible act on the part of the petitioner and it amounted to perjury as well as criminal contempt, the CJ added.

He recalled that the petitioner also had a past history of filing frivolous petitions and it clearly tells upon his professional misconduct which deserved to be dealt with severely. Advocate C.K. Chandrasekhar, representing Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, said the council was also in possession of copies of educational certificates of Ms. Poornima.

When he said the media should be restrained from reporting about cases even before they could be listed for hearing, Chief Justice Sahi said the court would not gag the media since it enjoys the freedom of speech and expression. However, stating that the “press is also involved” in the present case, he said his Bench intends to take some serious steps in this regard.