During the hearing today, Pracha, appearing as party-in-person told a Bench comprising of Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy that,
“The bone of contention is very simple, the Hon. Chairman of the CAT had used certain words, which I had never spoken. I had rejected it on the day itself. The Chairman used certain words for the Supreme Court and High Court. I then told him that these kinds of remarks may not be passed in open court and that the Chairman may hold an in chamber hearing.
In response, Vikramjit Banerjee, Additional Solicitor General, who had appeared before the Tribunal, pointed out that,
“I’ll only say this. The Hon.Chairman has now retired. I’ll suggest it to my learned friend, now it’s not personal. If my friend can make some leeway to the court and keep this court’s stature in mind, let this (the present matter) be closed.”
The bench observed:
“We have to balance two things, majesty and dignity of the courts, but not in a personal capacity. We (Judges) come here and we go. We are supposed to do it with detachment….. The important thing is that this instrument of justice should remain effective. That’s the main purpose. The head gowns, the clothes we wear, all of this is geared to achieve that purpose.”
As the hearing progressed, the Bench inquired the Pracha regarding the charge against him as a result of the contempt proceedings initiated by the CAT.
“It’s a quasi judicial proceeding. Where’s the charge? Unless we see the charge, where’s the question of anything?”
ASG Banerjee, at this point, added,
“A lot of times, we (advocates) think that we have been treated unfairly by the court. It happens. We take it because as a counsel, it’s our job, in some ways.”
He also informed the Bench that if the matter is going to be contested on merits, then he would obtain the records and contest it. “Please direct the registry of CAT to produce the records.”
“He’s the appellant, he’ll have it,” the Bench answered, pointing to Pracha.
After which, the court ordered,
“The appellant seeks time to produce the actual charge in the matter. List after two weeks.”
As concluding remarks, the Bench observed,
“You go back and when you get the time, settle down and decide. It’s an acknowledgment of our nature that we are prone to committing mistakes….”
The main bench of CAT had taken suo moto cognition in a case where Pracha was arguing the case of Sanjiv Kumar Chaturvedi, an Indian Forest Service Officer of Uttarakhand cadre on deputation of AIIMS, Delhi, who filed different applications with regards to recording of his Annual Confidential Reports (ACR).
Citing instances of unruly and contemptuous behavior on Advocate’s part, the Tribunal had held him guilty of contempt of court under section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
“From the various developments that took place in this case, what we gather is that the attempt was more to add to the personality of the applicant and his counsel ie the respondent herein and for that purpose, the Tribunal became an easy target,” order said.
However, the Court refrained from imposing sentence and let him off with a warning treating it as the first instance.
In an earlier hearing, the Court had asked Pracha to consider filing an unconditional apology.
While refusing to stay the CAT order, the division bench of Justice KM Joseph and Justice SR Bhat said,
“All that has happened, one condition that we want you to consider is that, please write an unconditional apology. The whole thing will go. We all commit mistakes. The idea is that at the earliest possible times, we make amendments.”
Case Title: Mehmood Pracha Versus Central Administrative Tribunal