Disregarding binding precedents no contempt, says Bombay HC, exonerates magistrate
The Bombay high court on Thursday exonerated a judicial magistrate from contempt of court over his purported wilful disregard of precedents of superior courts while deciding cases before him. It said though there is negligence, it cannot be termed as “wilful breach or wilful disobedience” to proceed against the magistrate for contempt.
A division bench of justices SS Shinde and VG Bisht disposed of the contempt petition filed by Yogesh Athavale, an advocate from Ratnagiri district, hoping magistrate Vikram Jadhav will deal with judicial work before him with greater care, caution, and circumspection.
Athawale had moved the high court for initiating action for contempt of court against Jadhav alleging the magistrate was wilfully disregarding binding precedents of superior courts. Athawale cited four specific instances. His counsel, Murlidhar Patil, submitted that the instances pointed to that the magistrate’s habit of overlooking and disregarding binding precedents on flimsy grounds without properly going through the text of those binding precedents. He said it not only amounted to misconduct in the discharge of duties but was also contemptuous.
Advocate SR Nargolkar, who represented the high court administration, submitted the magistrate was summoned by the guardian judge of the district for counselling and he has been suitably counselled. In such circumstances, Nargolkar said the contempt petition was liable to be disposed of, as nothing remained in the proceeding to be done further.
The high court accepted that in at least two of the four orders passed by the magistrate, the precedents were not even mentioned. In the third, the magistrate merely mentioned the superior court judgments cited by Athawale but did not deal with it whereas, in the fourth, he erred on the law.
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