The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), that adjudicates service matters of central government employees, has held a senior advocate guilty of its contempt but let him off with a 'severe warning', according to an official statement issued on Thursday.
The principal bench of the (CAT) took suo moto cognisance of the behaviour of advocate Mehmood Pracha, while arguing the case of Sanjiv Chaturvedi, an Indian Forest Service officer of Uttarakhand cadre on deputation to All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, who filed different applications with regard to recording of his Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs), it said.
"From the various developments that took in this case, what we gather is that the attempt was more to add to the personality of the applicant and his counsel i.e., the respondent herein, and for that purpose, the tribunal became easy target," the CAT said in its order issued on Wednesday.
Citing instances of unruly and contemptuous behavior on part of the respondent, it held him guilty of contempt of court under Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
There would have been every justification to impose the sentence proportionate to the acts of contempt held proven against the respondent, the order said.
However, by treating this as a first instance, we let him off with a severe warning to the effect that if he repeats such acts in future in the tribunal, the finding that he is guilty of contempt of court, in this case, shall be treated as one of the factors in the proceedings, if any, that may ensue," it said.
Pracha was engaged by the applicant and on February 8, 2019 he stated that the Supreme Court dismissed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), by imposing cost of Rs 25,000, the statement said.
He was also informed that the adjudication before the Uttarakhand High Court and the Supreme Court was only about the power of the Chairman under Section 25 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 to stay the proceedings while dealing with an application for transfer and that issue no longer subsists, with the adjudication by the courts, it said.
'Though repeated requests were made to advance arguments did not appeal to him. He started humiliating the other side counsel by saying that they have no right whatever to plead before the Tribunal as per the orders of the Supreme Court,' the statement said.
Creating an unfortunate situation in the court, was browbeating the chairman as well as the respondents through his gestures and dramatics, it said.
'Seeing that his provocation is not yielding the expected results, the respondent herein went on making personal attack on the chairman,' the statement said.
Left with no alternative, a detailed order was passed on that date and a show cause notice of contempt was issued, it said.
Accordingly, a criminal contempt petition was initiated and draft charges were framed on July 19, 2019.
'After hearing both the parties, the tribunal expressed the view that the matter falls under Rule 13 (b) of the Contempt of Courts (CAT) Rules, 1992.
'Since we were satisfied that a prima facie case exists, the charge was framed under Form III.
'The case was listed on 10.02.2020 and the respondent pleaded not guilty,' the statement said.
The respondent stated that the arguments were only on the basis of the record and that he did not state anything which amounts to contempt of court and added that a contempt case was filed against the chairman before the Uttarakhand high court for the observations about the Judgement of Uttarakhand High Court, it said.
He has also referred to the SLP pending before the Supreme Court against the said contempt case, the statement said.
Even where the parties are a bit emotional, the counsels are expected to discourage them and plead before the court or tribunal that much, which is relevant, it said.
'It is rather unfortunate to note that the attack by the respondent herein was more severe and aggressive, than that of his client,' the statement said.
The matter reached its pinnacle when he said in the open court that the proceedings be heard in the chamber because he has to say something about the chairman, it said.
"This was a clear innuendo to convey to those present in the court, that there is something shabby or serious against the chairman. When he was asked to say whatever he wants in the court itself, he went beating around the bush and did not spell out anything," the statement said.
Pracha and his client have hoodwinked the tribunal at every stage and in all possible manners, according to the statement.
'Soon after the contempt notice was issued, a contempt case was filed against the chairman, in the Uttarakhand high court. A learned Single Judge entertaining it issued notice. The Supreme Court stayed it,'