Bombay High Court refers contempt plea against YouTube, others to larger bench

By: | Updated: February 22, 2017 8:03 PM

The Bombay High Court today referred to a larger bench a petition filed by the Bar Association challenging a video clip on YouTube which allegedly showed courtroom proceedings and levelled corruption charges against a judge.

“The issue is of paramount importance and puts the judiciary into disrepute. Hence the matter is referred to a larger bench,” Justice Oka said in the order.

The Bombay High Court today referred to a larger bench a petition filed by the Bar Association challenging a video clip on YouTube which allegedly showed courtroom proceedings and levelled corruption charges against a judge. “Perusal of the petition and other material shows contempt of court and this directly adversely effects the independence of the judiciary,” said a bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Anuja Prabhudessai.

“The issue is of paramount importance and puts the judiciary into disrepute. Hence the matter is referred to a larger bench,” Justice Oka said in the order.

The bench said that after its order is uploaded on the high court website, the matter may be placed on March 23 before Chief Justice Manjula Chellur who may assign the petition to a larger bench. The larger bench would comprise three judges, according to legal sources. The high court observed that this is a fit case of the contempt of court.

It had last week issued notice to the video-sharing website and search engine Google, seeking their response as to why action under contempt of court should not be initiated against them.

Google India’s lawyer today said that it had no control over YouTube and was not concerned with it. Besides, YouTube and Google were separate entities.

The petition has sought contempt action against the persons who recorded and uploaded the video on YouTube levelling allegations of corruption against Justice S J Kathawala of the high court.

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“The 38-minute video uploaded last week by ‘Right Mirror’ copies the format of a news channel and shows a person acting as an anchor and taking interviews of several persons including lawyer Nilesh Ojha making scandalous remarks against judges of this high court,” the petition has said.

“The video also includes clips of court proceedings shot secretly by one Gopal Shetye,” the petitioner’s counsel Rafiq Dada submitted.

According to Dada, as mandated by law, Advocate General Rohit Deo has given consent to initiate contempt action against 10 persons but has refused to give consent to initiate action against YouTube. Dada requested the court to take suo motu cognisance of the issue.

The court had last week ordered YouTube and other respondents to remove the video immediately. “Considering the scandalous and contemptuous nature of the video, we are inclined to order the respondents to forthwith remove the offending video,” the court had ruled.

The court had issued show-cause notice to YouTube and Google seeking their response as to why proceedings under contempt of court should not be initiated against them.

It had also issued notice of contempt against Rishi Pandit, who is seen anchoring the show in the video, Gopal Shetye, who shot the court proceedings, and a few others who were seen giving interviews in the video.

The bench had also sought to know from the Union government what steps it proposes to take on the issue. “Under the IT Act, the Union government is not powerless,” it said.

The division bench said that the Centre shall ensure that the court order is implemented. “We would like to hear the government’s stance too since this is not the first time such things are happening,” the court had said during the hearing last week.

Ever since the video surfaced, the HC has issued a ban on carrying mobile phones or any other electronic device inside the courtrooms.

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