Friday, 20 March, 2009

Justice Pasayat does a Bush

We have all heard enough (and laughed) about Muntadher al-Zaidi, the journalist who hurled his shoes at George W. Bush, about a month before the end of Bush's term. Well, today the Supreme Court got its own personal feel of the incident, when a lady hurled her sandal at Hon'ble Justice Arijit Pasayat, who is also ironically due to retire on 10th May, 2009.

Ms. Leila David and Ms. Annette Kotian, members of the Boss School of Music who had filed Writ Petitions before the Hon'ble Supreme Court with prayers for protection of their school members and followers, had been facing contempt charges after they had levelled ridiculous allegations against the Judges of the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court, and had inter alia prayed that Judges who had allowed the "genocide" to be perpetrated against their school by the Mumbai Police should be given capital punishment.

The petitioners, who were appearing in person, had in the past refused to apologize for their averments, in spite of different Benches of the Supreme Court having shown sufficient tolerance towards their conduct.

Finally, today, when Justice Pasayat refused to hear their arguments because their earlier petition seeking the same relief on the same ground had already been dismissed, one of the ladies started shouting at the Hon'ble Judges, and eventually, a lady named Sarida Parikh, who had accompanied the petitioners in Court, ended up hurling her sandal at the Bench.

Though Justice Pasayat was quick to duck ala George W. Bush, the acrobatics were not as evident because the sandal failed to sail to the Bench.

Needless to say, the ladies are now in Judicial custody, and the matter has been referred to a larger Bench for deciding the quantum of sentence.

Underneath the ridiculousness of the incident that borders on being funny, or scandalous, depending on the way one sees it, is an important legal issue that deserves mention as it could not be voiced before the Court amidst all the drama.

Mr. Goolam Vahanvati, Solicitor General of India, who had been appointed as Amicus Curiae in the matter, was of the opinion that the petitioners and other members of the Boss School of Music were mentally unstable, and their absolutely deplorable conduct perhaps required more delicate handling. In an interesting English case called In re de Court, [1997] T.L.R. 601, it had been held that the inherent powers of a Court to prevent abuse of its process and its repeated contempt were very vast, and they included the power to issue an injunction restraining a litigant, like the ladies in our case, from appearing in any proceeding in any Court of law, except to answer subpoenas issued against it. Such an injunction, while effective in dealing with the nuisance created by the members of Boss School of Music, would perhaps have been a more delicate way of dealing with this peculiar problem.

But then again, Mr. Vahanvati had not yet witnessed the hurling of the shoe when he discussed his opinion, and perhaps only a Mahatma could have acted on it given the nature of the eventual proceedings.

Rohit Sharma
Supreme Court of India

1 comment:

  1. The Order of two judges disagreeing on the procedure to be followed is reported as Leila David v. State of Maharashtra, 2009 (4) SCALE 429. Go have a look, its worth a read.