The Supreme Court on Thursday dropped contempt proceedings against Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari but rebuked him for his ‘misplaced bravado’ and being ‘a rebel without a cause’ for breaking the lock of a sealed building.
The court also expressed ‘extreme pain’ over Tiwari's action and observed that his ‘machismo and brazen manner’ and ‘chest thumping’ in making frivolous allegations against the court-mandated monitoring committee on sealing was a clear indication of how ‘low he can stoop’ and also displayed his ‘total lack of respect for any rule of law’.
A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur said there was no doubt that Tiwari, also a Bharatiya Janata Party MP, had on September 16 broken or tampered with the seal put by veterinary services department of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) on a building.
The court was pained by his behaviour as he is an elected representative and ‘hopefully a responsible citizen of Delhi’, the bench said.
“The misplaced bravado of Manoj Tiwari and his chest thumping immediately after the hearing on October 3, 2018 and making serious but frivolous allegations against the monitoring committee appointed by this court is a clear indication of how low Manoj Tiwari can stoop and displays his total lack of respect for any rule of law," the bench said.
"It seems that he (Tiwari) is, in a sense, a rebel without a cause," said the bench, also comprising justices S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta.
However, it said, ‘the proceedings against Manoj Tiwari are closed’.
If convicted for contempt, a contemnor can be awarded a jail term up to six months or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees or with both.
The top court also termed as ‘rather shocking’ the response given by Tiwari's counsel that the lawmaker's action was driven by the ‘mob pressure’.
Immediately after the court verdict, both BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party engaged in a war of words with Tiwari claiming that the court had noted his concerns over the ‘pick and choose’ policy in the ongoing sealing drive in the national capital and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal the BJP should end its ‘stunt and theatrics’.
"The pick and choose policy of the Monitoring Committee and the illegal sealing actions, which have been highlighted by us, have been taken note of by the Supreme Court," Tiwari said a statement.
Hitting back, Kejriwal said the BJP should end its ‘stunt and theatrics’ over the sealing issue, and immediately bring an ordinance to maintain status quo and provide relief to lakhs of people.
In its order, the top court termed as ‘rather shocking’ the response of BJP MP's counsel on why he had taken the law into his own hands and broken or tampered with the seal on the premises.
"We were told that Manoj Tiwari is a popular leader of a political party and on seeing him in that area a mob of about 1,500 people had gathered and goaded him to break the seal that had been 'illegally' put on the premises of Prem Singh," the bench said.
"As a result of the pressure exerted upon him by the mob, he broke or tampered with the seal. What shocked us was the rationale given by Manoj Tiwari which suggested to us quite explicitly that instead of pacifying the mob and requiring the mob to act in accordance with law, Manoj Tiwari acted irresponsibly by taking the law into his own hands," it said.
The court observed that consequence of such a behaviour could be ‘devastating’ in a given situation and gave an example that if a mob goads an elected MP to commit a far more serious offence, ‘would it mean that the elected representative would act on the instructions of the mob and commit the offence?’
"A large number of such situations can arise on a day to day basis and it is disconcerting to note that an elected member of a responsible political party can succumb to pressure from a mob rather than require the mob to follow the rule of law," it said.
"In such a situation, the elected representative ceases to be a leader and becomes a blind follower. We need not say anything more on this subject but leave it to the better judgment of the political party to take action against Manoj Tiwari, if so advised," the bench said.
The court also noted that sealing and de-sealing of premises had nothing to do with the monitoring committee as it was not consulted in the matter, and no direction was given by the panel to seal the premises.
"We are extremely pained by the machismo and brazen manner in which Manoj Tiwari took the law into his own hands and broke or tampered with the seal on Prem Singh's premises.
“We are pained because Manoj Tiwari is an elected MP and hopefully a responsible citizen of Delhi. Should an elected representative of the people defy the rule of law in this manner?" the bench said.
The bench said that ‘shoulders’ of court and monitoring committee were broad enough to take criticism in its stride and therefore, it do not intend to proceed against Tiwari for the ‘reckless statement attributed to him as publicised by the media department of the political party’.
"We are of the view that pumping for apparently misplaced political propaganda has no place in our courts; this unhealthy practice needs to be strongly deprecated. We only hope, as mentioned above, that better sense prevails and undemocratic tendencies are curbed by the concerned political party," the court said.
An FIR was also lodged against Tiwari by the EDMC for allegedly breaking the seal of the premises in Gokalpuri area in north-east Delhi on September 16.