CHENNAI: "If you have guts, take action against me," is how Madurai-based advocate W Peter Ramesh Kumar responded when Justices R Sudhakar and VM Velumani, constituting a division Bench, advised Peter to behave properly in their court hall on September 16, 2015.
Stating that all the charges and acts of Peter were criminal contempt in terms of Sec. 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, another division Bench of Justices V Ramasubramanian and K Ravichandra Babu of the Madras High Court directed him to submit his response to the charges on February 15.
The Bench was passing interim orders on a suo-motu contempt petition, initiated by the Bench of Justices Sudhakar and Velumani while sitting at Madurai Bench on September 16, 2015.
The charges against Peter were that while the proceedings were on in the court hall of Justices Sudhakar and Velumani in Madurai on September 16, Peter, leading a group of advocates, trooped in without formal robes and raised slogans. This conduct violated the earlier orders passed by the division Bench on March 3, 2006 and March 2, 2010 in some other cases relating to conduct.
Peter instigated the advocates to come out of the court hall and join the boycott call issued by the Madurai Bench High Court Advocates Association. He had a tiff with advocate D Selvam, chairman of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, while he was conducting a case.
When the judges said he should not disturb the court proceedings and in case he wanted to give a lecture to the advocates assembled in the court hall, he could do so outside the court hall, Peter immediately shot back saying that "If you have guts, take action against me."
Holding that it amounted to contempt of court, the present Bench appointed senior advocate MK Kabir as amicus curie to assist the court and posted the matter for further hearing on February 15.
The Bench also informed Peter that as the happenings of September 16 and his conduct were judicially recorded by the Bench of Justices Sudhakar and Velumani and also as his response to the show cause notice did not contain a categorical denial of the happenings, but had only a vituperative attack on the judges who recorded the happenings, there was no necessity to examine any witnesses to prove the recorded facts.
In another order passed by the same Bench on the next day, it restrained Peter and another advocate Manikandan Vathan Chettiyar, who had been suspended by the TN Bar Council from practising, publishing, distributing and circulating any message or material scandalising the judiciary and everyone who is part of it, including women lawyers, in any manner, either through WhatsApp, Twitter, group messages, YouTube, and Facebook postings.
The Bench also directed the Union Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in New Delhi and the Facebook (also owners of WhatsApp Inc) and the Youtube Google India, in Hyderabad to block the objectionable material containing a scandalous attack, on women in particular, originating from mobile phones of the two.
The SP, Cyber Cell, Egmore, should provide necessary assistance to Facebook and YouTube, the Bench said and posted the matter on February 26.
The episode does not end here. Justice C
S Karnan, who is known for his controversial remarks and acts, on February 5 advised Justice Ramasubramanian to go on leave, in the interest of justice and for installing public confidence, till the serious issue was settled.
He also shot a letter to the State Home Secretary to provide adequate protection to Peter to enable him to acquit himself in the trial.