Taking a serious view of the "irresponsible reporting" of a court hearing by the "Indian Express" newspaper, justice Rakesh Kumar Garg of the Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday recused from hearing the contempt-of-court case against Punjab education secretary and director of public instruction (secondary schools).
Justice Garg also talked to the acting chief justice to transfer the case for hearing to another bench of the high court. The court had kept the final decision for Friday. In it, it had on May 27 held education secretary Anjali Bhawra and DPI (secondary schools) Kamal Kumar Garg guilty of deceiving the court and concealing material facts.
Pointing out the news report "Selection of teachers: HC refuses to accept state officials' apology" that appeared in the Friday edition of "Indian Express", justice Garg said in the open court while hearing the case: "The news report has tried to prejudge the court's mind. Yesterday, I have not ordered anything… it is not acceptable."
Showing the news report to the petitioners' counsel, Kapil Kakkar, justice Garg asked him: "Have you read the news? Did you tell the facts?" To this, Kakkar replied that he had not told anything to any reporter. "I had confronted the reporter today. He says somebody from Delhi told the news on phone…I would request media friends sitting in court that they should refrain from doing reporting in such a manner," he said.
When Bhawra requested the bench to accept her unconditional apology, justice Garg said: "after the news report, if today I accept your apology, people would doubt my credibility" and "if the court does not, then the newspaper has prejudged court's mind".
The judge said that on Friday morning, he had talked to the acting chief justice and now it was for the CJ to transfer the case to some other bench.
The contempt of court petition was filed by Sonia Verma and others, alleging that the education department had hired seven candidates below them on merit list as Hindi school masters as part of the exercise to fill 700 posts advertised in September 2009 for secondary schools.
The petitioners had submitted that even after court's directions they had not been appointed and the department had filed contradictory statements in the court to save its skin. Later, the department accepted the mistake but blamed it on a computer error.