Dispensation of justice: J-K style
Posted September 11, 2009on:
Muzaffar Hussain Beigh, the former deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir who hogged the headlines by raking muck against chief minister Omar Abdullah, is etched in my memory as part of the stink that engulfs our legal and judicial system.
It was a sad period in the history of Jammu and Kashmir. Governor Jagmohan had sneakily dismissed the elected government of Farooq Abdullah and installed G.M.Ghah as the chief minister. Shah had never won an election – before or after that. (He was a member of the Upper House). He had, along with a dozen defectors from the National Conference formed his rump and christened it National Conference (Khalida). All 13 of them formed the cabinet and the Congress party, led by Mufti Mohammed Syed, supported it from outside. I was then posted in Jammu.
Shah had appointed Muzaffar Hussain Beigh his Advocate General. Shah, mufti and Beigh had much in common.
One day Beigh was arguing before a division bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on a letters patent appeal arising out of an order of a single-judge bench. The division bench comprised Chief Justice A.S.Anand (who later became the Chief Justice of India) and Justice K.K.Gupta. Beigh made some unsavoury observations about the judge (now no more) whose order he was contesting and said that he would never appear before that corrupt judge.
Later I talked to Beigh in his chamber. He not only reiterated all that he had observed before the division bench but said much more about the corruption of the judge. (The judge was transferred to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court from another State and that was said to be the reason for Beigh’s aversion for him). Anyway, with Beigh’s apparent consent I wrote the story.
It appeared next morning. An advocate named Subhash Chander Gupta filed contempt of the court petition against Muzaffar Hussain Beigh and others (like the reporter, editor, etc). Beigh immediately changed his tack and, in consultation with chief minister G.M.Shah and deputy chief minister D.D.Thakur, filed another contempt of the court petition against me and five others, my name being number six among the respondents. Chief Justice Anand and Justice Gupta played a dirtier role.
Subhash Chander Gupta’s contempt petition against the Advocate General was filed first and Beigh had moved his contempt petition against me only after that. But the Registry was directed to number Beigh’s contempt petition as “one” and that of Gupta as number “two.
Chief Justice Anand constituted with the lightning speed a bench to hear the petition (not the petitions, though there were two) and assigned it to Justice K.K.Gupta. This was not only illegal but immoral also. Justice Gupta was an involved party as the Advocate General had made the offending remarks before the division bench of which he was a part. Secondly, it violated the provisions of Section 18 of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971 which prescribes hearing of a contempt petition by a bench of not less than two judges.
With exemplary promptitude, Justice Gupta passed the following order: “Issue notice to respondents 1 to 5 and non-bailable warrants against respondent No. 6 (emphasis added) for their appearance before the court to show cause as to why they should not be punished for committing contempt of the court.”
At the same time, Justice Gupta passed the following order in the Contempt Petition No. 2 (moved by Subhash Chander Gupta against Beigh): “Let this application come up along with contempt petition No1. However, these proceedings shall not be published in any newspaper’. (Emphasis added).
How I escaped the police dragnet (“we have alerted the police from Leh to Lakhanpur”, the State’s counsel had boasted to my advocate) and deprived the Shahs and the Beighs the pleasure of seeing me “brought in handcuffs” is another story.