JUDICIAL MAGISTRATE ACCUSED OF DISREGARDING MADRAS HIGH COURT ORDERS- JUDGES CONVINCED THAT HE IS GUILTY OF CONTEMPT OF COURT.
Author: Shrestha Banerjee, National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam.
The Madras High court issued statutory notice to S .Gopinathan, a metropolitan magistrate in the city of Madras who was accused of contempt of court.
High court justices S.Vaidyanathan and P.T Asha were appointed for interrogating Mr. Gopinathan and they directed him to file an affidavit explaining the reasons of his offence, that is, letting out two accused in a road accident case on reception of a bail granted by the district court without even waiting for a High Court order that was said to have stayed the same bail order later.
The Magistrate was accused of issuance of a warrant of release of the offenders in spite of being aware and informed of the stay order from the high court. Reports state that his statement was personally taken by the judges who thereafter decided to issue a statutory notice to him, being prima facie confirmed that he was guilty of a case of contempt.
The issue pertains to the grant of bail by the Principal District and Session Court to two private law college students who were mainly accused of Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder(Section 304, IPC) of a woman lawyer named Sunanda Suren in a road accident at Chetpet Traffic Signal, on December 21
The petitioner counsel, S. Haaja Mohideen Gishti claimed that the arguments on the bail petitions of the two accused got over at around 3.30 p.m. on December 21 but the Principal District and Sessions Judge (Mr. Gopinathan) had passed an order granting bail at 9:15 p.m. Thereafter, an urgent application for cancellation of the bail before was hastily moved by the petitioners to the High Court during the Christmas vacation and Justice Krishnan Ramasamy held a special sitting in his chamber at 4 p.m. on Monday to hear the case. After a detailed hearing, the judge stayed the Sessions Court order granting bail at 4.45 p.m.
Mr. Gisthi stated that in the meantime, bail bonds were prepared for the release of one of the two accused. Therefore, information was passed on to the Magistrate through a junior counsel that the High Court had stayed the bail order. “However, the Magistrate refused to wait for the production of a certified copy of the order and released the accused from Saidapet prison.”
The High Court had issued a direction to Mr. Gishti to file individual affidavits, within four weeks, penning the oral submission that the Magistrate had chosen not to wait for the High Court’s stay order despite being informed of it.
The tragic turn of events points towards the ironical question that who would obey the court of law in this country if even a judicial magistrate does not adhere to it and law school students try to flout it after getting involved in a hit and runs road accidents.