Chennai: Sending a clear signal that misconduct of lawyers in courts will not be tolerated, the Madras high court on Monday sentenced advocate Peter Ramesh Kumar to six months simple imprisonment holding him guilty of contempt of court. He will not be permitted to practice for six months.
A division bench comprising Justices V. Ramasubramanian and K. Ravichandrabaabu expressed anguish at the “unpardonable” conduct of Peter barging into the court hall 2 of the Madurai bench of the high court on September 16 last year with a bunch of lawyers, shouting slogans and disrupting the court work. He had also defied the orders passed by the judges “and also throwing a gauntlet to the judges themselves when asked to clear out, (which are) serious acts of contempt, which cannot be ignored”, the bench said.
Peter and the agitating lawyers were demanding that Tamil be made the official language of the high court; but in the process, indulged in violent and unruly behavior.
The Bench said Peter was not being punished for leading the agitation for Tamil as court language, but only due to his unruly conduct. “The conduct of the contemner, both before and during the contempt proceedings, was one of teasing, intimidating, browbeating and scandalising the judges. They are therefore aggravating circumstances and relevant criteria in imposing a proper penalty”.
Also, when Peter did not get publicity from the print media to his "scandalous allegations" he had made against the two judges in Madurai and also one judge in Chennai, he circulated these allegations in his Facebook posts and through WhatsApp messages, the Bench now said.
During the incident in the Madurai court, when Peter asked the lawyers inside the court of Justices R. Sudhakar and V.M. Velumani to come out, he picked up argument with a lawyer who refused to come out and challenged the judges to take action if they dared. The judges initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against Peter.
In their present order, Justices Ramasubramanian and Ravichandrabaabu made it clear that they were not punishing Peter for agitating for Tamil as court language, which he was trying to portray as. "The court is certainly not inclined to punish the contemner merely for his participation either in the (court) boycott or any protest meeting", they said.
The bench has ordered suspension of Peter's sentence for 15 days to enable him to appeal to the SC.
Pointing out that the contemner had not even appeared in the court when the sentence was pronounced, nor did he express regret for his conduct, the judges said as an “indication of our sense of fairness and magnanimity” they suspended the sentence of imprisonment alone in case he chose to approach the apex court.