All’s well that ends well: SC exonerates Gujarat Senior Yatin Oza of contempt [Read order]

Court room 4 of the Supreme Court witnessed great drama today as the hearing in the contempt case against Senior Advocate Yatin Oza saw a battery of Senior Advocates pitted against one another.

While Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal and AM Singhvi appeared for Oza, Senior Advocate KK Venugopal appeared for the Gujarat High Court Advocates Association. Senior Advocate Harin Raval appeared for respondent.

The case was heard by a Bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan.

Background

Oza had courted controversy when he wrote two scathing letters to the Chief Justice TS Thakur criticising Gujarat High Court Justices MR Shah and KS Jhaveri as owing allegiance to ’11, Akbar Road and 7, Race Course Road’. A contempt petition was filed in the High Court, after which notice was issued to Oza. This led Oza to approach the apex court in an attempt to stay the order.

Represented by AM Singhvi, Oza secured a stay order from the Supreme Court bench presided by Justice Dipak Misra. The bench, however, refused to interfere with the rest of the order. This would mean that the Advocates Association would be barred from meeting and passing any resolution regarding the two letters written by Oza.

In a subsequent hearing, Justice Misra had taken exception to Oza’s remarks against the High Court. The matter was then listed for today.

August 25 Affidavit: Oza apologises

Oza, who was designated Senior Advocate by the Gujarat High Court at the age of 39, had already filed an affidavit to the Supreme Court on August 25 apologising for his remarks against the Gujarat High Court.

Excerpts from that affidavit reads as follows:

“…I tender an unconditional apology with respect to the last paragraph to the judges of the Gujarat High Court and this court. My expression might perhaps have been inarticulately worded.

If I have inadvertently used language not befitting the institution, I tender my unconditional apology.”

Today’s hearing

When the matter came up for hearing today, Harin Raval was keen that the court should take note of an earlier contempt case against Oza.

“There was a contempt case against him before. He had filed an affidavit saying that he will not make such remarks in future. What is the sanctity of that undertaking?”

Raval also said that Oza had given a television interview reiterating his allegations against the two judges – Justice MR Shah and KS Jhaveri.

“He had been very belligerent and spoken  about it again”, said Raval.

Raval had also come with a recorded copy of the TV debate wherein Oza had spoken.

Sibal and Singhvi, however, submitted that if Raval wanted to go into those, then they will be forced to argue on the merits of the case including statements by Oza.

The Gujarat High Court Advocates Association also threw its weight behind Oza. Senior Advocate KK Venugopal submitted that Oza’s apology is sincere and that the Bar Association would like to put the controversy to rest.

“Put an end to it. The Bar Association feels that the apology is sincere and honest and the matter should be closed.”

Raval was, however, in no mood to concede.

“I am not against the apology coming on record. But it should not be used as a tool – make an allegation and then tender an apology.”

The court, after giving due consideration to the submissions, asked Oza to submit a new affidavit undertaking that he will not speak on the issue to media or public except in court proceedings.

Oza agreed to the same and the court kept the matter for 12:30 pm.

12:30 pm: Oza Exonerated after fresh affidavit

When the case was taken up again at 12:30, Oza filed a fresh affidavit as required by the court, tendering his unconditional apology.

Besides that, he also gave an undertaking that “he shall not speak on the subject in issue except in court proceedings and that he shall not speak to print and electronic media on the subject in issue.”

The court accepted the same and recorded that Oza’s “apology is repentant and his regret is sincere.”

“We treat the apology by Yatin Narendra Oza to be articulately sincere and exonerate him”.

Read the order below.

Image taken from here.

Yatin Narendra Oza v. Khemchand Rajaram Khosti