By: Aparajita Patel
The Madras High Court convicted two lawyers guilty of contempt of court on Friday for pursuing vexatious litigation with the intent of removing a Registrar (Vigilance) of the High Court on the basis of a clearly false affidavit accusing her of not being eligible for the position.
On the recommendation of a Bench led by the then Chief Justice, Justices PN Prakash and RN Manjula took up the case. The First Bench had already ordered one of the lawyers to pay Rs 5 lakh in expenses after filing a contempt of court complaint against him.
The two lawyers “acted in tandem and hatched a devious plot to manufacture the vexatious litigation on the strength of patently false affidavit which was calculated to not only dislodge the then Registrar (Vigilance) from her post but also bring down the prestige of the High Court,” according to the order issued last Friday by Justices Prakash and Manjula.
“In addition, the duo had caused the petition to be widely circulated in the press, even before the matter was admitted before this Court, and had thus brought the administration of justice into disrepute in the eyes of the public, without realising that their conduct, as officers of the Court, would amount to recklessly hurling stones at the institution, thereby bringing the administration of justice into disrepute in the eyes of the public, without realising that their conduct, as officers of the Court, would amount to recklessly hurling.
The Court also voiced its concern with the petition’s widespread publicity before it ever arrived at the Court.
“If the accused contemnors cared about the institution’s honour, the very least they could have done was file a complaint with the Registrar General saying that Ms. Poornima had failed the Plus Two examination. This was not accomplished. Instead, they filed a petition for a writ of quo warranto and, shortly after, a news item was produced to be published by them. The image of the High Court as an institution in the eyes of the public, rather than Ms. Poornima’s reputation, is the topic of the contempt proceedings “, according to the Court.
The Bench went on to say that as “officers of the Court,” the two lawyers had an extra responsibility and duty to avoid doing anything that would harm the institution, because it is the institution that gives them their identity in society.