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Jharkhand High Court single judge challenges Division Bench’s decision to close contempt case against State AG

Jharkhand High Court

Justice Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi of the Jharkhand High Court recently sought a major order on a Division Bench’s recent judgment to end a contempt of court case against the Advocate General (AG) Rajiv Ranjan for technical reasons (Mansoor Ansari v The State of Jharkhand)

In 2021, Justice Dwivedi had ordered the registration of a suo motu contempt case against Ranjan after he had sought disqualification of the judge in a case. The AG had claimed that he had heard an opposing counsel say that the case will be “allowed 200%”.

However, the contempt case was closed by the acting chief judge at the time Shree Chandrashekhar and Justice Ambuj Nath in May this year on the grounds that the single judge had not recorded Ranjan’s words and statements in the order initiating the proceedings against him.

It had further held that a reference under Section 17 of the Contempt of Court Act for registration of criminal contempt proceedings could not be maintained without stating a charge and giving the opposing parties an opportunity to explain their conduct.

Justice Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi, Justice Shree Chandrashekhar and Justice Ambuj Nath.

Justice Dwivedi in an order passed on July 5 reopened the case against Ranjan by referring to a larger bench decision on the legal conclusions of the division bench.

The single judge made the decision in another case that it had done prima facie found the Jharkhand Director General of Police and Superintendent of Police, Hazaribag, in contempt of court.

However, the court decided not to issue contempt notices to the officers because of the law laid down by the division bench in AG Ranjan’s case.

Justice Dwivedi questioned the Division Bench ruling and referred to certain judgments of the Supreme Court where it has been held that the Supreme Court and High Courts are only bound to follow a procedure which is fair and fulfills the basic requirements of natural justice.

The Hon’ble Court rejected the argument that when the Court exercises such constitutional jurisdiction, the exercise of power by the Court may be flawed due to procedural irregularities invoking Sections 15 and 17 of the Act, 1971“, the judge noted.

The single judge added that it faced difficulties in the present case against the DGP and SP because of the law laid down by the Division Bench, as it said prima facie was in conflict with the Supreme Court’s rulings.

This court in the present case is confronted with the situation viz. (i) when on previous two dates in the present case the court has not issued any notice and now it can be issued or not? and (ii) after the first date itself, does the fee have to be framed along with notice or not? and (iii) this Court has initiated suo motu contempt in Contempt Case (Crl.) No. 3 of 2021, the procedure followed by this Court in that case was not accepted by the Hon’ble Division Bench and this Court does not wish to proceed expeditiously as procedural error is in question by the Hon’ble Division Bench and a clarification on that point is necessary before proceeding with this matter as the Court is in a confused situation as to what procedure to follow in view of the judgment of the Hon’ ble Division Bench in Contempt Case (Crl.) No .3 of 2021,” It said.

In view of the doubts, Justice Dwivedi remarked that he does not want to proceed in the present case to distinguish the judgment of the Division Bench in view of the principle of due process.

However, the Judge held that the Division Bench judgment “is per inquiry which is not binding, but on legal merit it will not be appropriate for this Court to proceed and ignore the judgment of the Hon’ble Division Bench in Contempt Case (Crl.) No.3 of 2021.”

Against this backdrop, the court said it would not proceed in the contempt case against the DGP and SP for the time being. Accordingly, it ordered that the judgment of the Division Bench in the contempt case against AG reconsidered by the larger bench and petitioners considered,

(i) Should the court take cognizance of a contemptuous act on the first date, or should it proceed with caution and give the contemptor an opportunity to respond before taking cognizance? Also, is it necessary to record every detail of the order to maintain justice?

(ii) Whether on the very first date or on the day of cognizance, the charge is to be framed and after notice/complaint can the charge be framed on the first date of appearance and under criminal proceedings?

(iii) When a prosecutor is served with all relevant documents, they should be given an opportunity to review those documents and respond after they appear. If this procedure is not followed after the appearance, can it be considered a procedural lapse?

(iv) When a single Judge of a Constitutional Court takes contempt and refers the matter to the Division Bench under Sections 15 and 18 of the Contempt of Courts Act, can it be regarded as a mere reference?

(v) When the Advocate General in a case is held in contempt, is the procedure prescribed in section 15 (1) (c) and sub-section (3) of section 15 of court required and is there any bar to exercise power over the court motu action?

Advocate Praveen Shankar Dayal appeared for the petitioner.

AAGs Ashutosh Anand and Sahbaj Akhtar appeared for the respondent.

Mansoor Ansari v State.pdf

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