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Judgement Analysis of R.K Anand vs Registrar, Delhi HC: Criminal Contempt

In the famed BMW hit-and-run case in Delhi on a chilly winter morning 10th January, 1999, a criminal trial, when a car driving recklessly ploughed through a police checkpoint and killed six persons, including three police officers. The accused was identified as Sanjeev Nanda, coming from a very wealthy family, who was Intoxicated.

Sunil Kulkarni was the most crucial court witness from the prosecution side. Through a sting operation, the TV station NDTV was able to uncover the causal association or contact in between two established lawyers in this contentious and pivotal case. Senior advocate R.K Anand was held liable for the criminal contempt of the court as he was suborning the primary witness of the court.

Both the appellants were found liable of criminal contempt of court but later on an appeal was filed by R.K Anand in the Supreme Court questioning the verdict of the High Court by mentioning that the punishment offered by the High Court was not adequate but the Supreme Court pronounced the Judgment and thus R.K Anand was convicted of contempt of court and I.U Khan was let off but added that his conduct was improper[1].

Brief Facts and Issues:
  • The current case is the outcome of a criminal trial stemming from a hit-and-run accident on a cold winter morning in Delhi in which a car travelling at high velocities crashed through a police checkpoint, killing six people, including three police officers. The primary accused in the case was a young man identified as Sanjeev Nanda, who came from a very wealthy business family. As stated by the prosecution, the accident was caused by Sanjeev Nanda, who was driving a black BMW at high speeds while intoxicated.
  • Even eight years after the accident in 2007, the trial was meandering endlessly, and from the prosecution's perspective, it was not proceeding very satisfactorily. On 30th May, 2007, the prominent TV News Channel NDTV (New Delhi Television), telecasted a programme where the Sunil Kulkarni (Primary Witness) was shown with IU Khan, the special public prosecutor, and R.K. Anand, the senior defence council, and negotiating for his sell out in favour of defence for high price.
  • SUO MOTO was taken by the Delhi High Court for the expose done by NDTV on telecast. Delhi HC have asked the NDTV to provide them with tapes of the recordings but the lawyers denied and protested this and said it to be Tampered.
  • After one year of the proceeding, lawyers from both sides were found guilty under Article 215 of Indian Constitution, held that their act falls within the definition of Contempt under clause (ii) and (iii) of Section 2(c) of Contempt of Court Act and were barred them to be present in Delhi High Court and its subordinates for four months and were stepped down from Seniority Status and were liable for fine of 2000 rupees each.
  • Now, R.K. Anand Filed an appeal under Article 132 of Indian Constitution with I.U Khan in the Hon'ble Supreme Court against the decision of Delhi High Court. The Supreme Court upheld the decision made by Delhi High Court and released I.U Khan from the conviction but not R.K. Anand as held by Delhi High Court.

Suborning a court witness is an offense as per Indian Laws and should be punished for the same. Section 2 of Contempt of Court, 1971, defines Contempt of Court and under that Civil Contempt of Court and Criminal Contempt of Court. Section 2(a) describes Contempt of Court as Civil Contempt or Criminal Contempt.

Section 2(b) describes Civil Contempt as wilful disobedience or breach of Court's order, decree, judgement, discretion, writ or any other undertaking. Section 2(c) describes Criminal Contempt which means publication in the form of words, spoken or written, or by signs or visual representations which tends to lower the reputation of the Court or interferes with the judgement of the Court.[2]

The issues which were raised in the case were:
  • Issue I: Whether the conviction of two appellants for the Criminal Contempt of Court was Justified?
  • Issue II: Whether the High Court proceedings adopted the procedure which was Fair, Reasonable and causing no prejudice to the convicts?
  • Issue III: Whether the high Court was authorised to prohibit the appellants to appearing before the High Court and its subordinates for specific period of time and stripping the seniority off as a punishment for Criminal Contempt of Courts?
  • Issue IV: Whether the punishments meted out to the appellants were adequate and proportionate to their crimes in light of the facts and circumstances of the case?

These issues are covered in the further commentaries and analysis.

Legal Aspects: In the Issue I, that whether the conviction of two appellants by High Court for the Criminal Contempt of Court was Justified and Sustainable. It was found that the conviction on R.K Anand was Justified and Sustainable but not on I.U Khan. R.K. Anand in fact never raised a point concerning the credibility and accountability of the sting recordings, rather, he was constantly changing his opinions and answers each time he was asked for.

In fact, there was no provision of any specific proof of Sting Recordings and there was no upholding of the natural justice as he was given all the recordings with transcripts, and had ample amount of time to Justify or Defend Himself. Also, the court found the sting recordings as valid evidence. Hence, the conviction of R.K. Anand was lawful, moral and justified. The recording of sting operation makes it a bit unethical to do so, but the facts and circumstances of the case needed this badly.

In the Issue II, HC must and should be held liable for not taking NDTV as one of the contemnors in the initiation of the proceedings along with the two appellants burdened with the charge of Criminal Contempt; then there would have no grievance if NDTV was made one of the contemnors. This shows the biasness and the fact that powerful and rhetoric people and associations have a large control over the process.

In the Issue III, the High Court have worked in the extension of their Jurisdiction by suspending the advocates license and not allowing him to attend the cases for 4 months as a punishment to professional misconduct. There are certain rules mentioned by Bar Council of India under the Advocates Act, 1971 for professional misconduct and that's the right authority to decide respectively. In Ex. Capt. Harish Uppal vs. UOI and Supreme Court Bar Association vs. UOI, the argument was that the suspending of the license was not for the punishment of professional misconduct but was rather an approach to make decorum of the court.[3]

In the Issue IV, the HC was seen to be lenient in matter of punishment of misdeeds of R.K. Anand as he tended to intimate the court. As an appellant, he attempted to bribe the primary witness in a criminal trial, which makes his conduct more aggravated in High Court and was not proportional the misdeed he had done.

Commentaries: In the following case, there are many issues which are to criticized and appreciated. R.K. Anand, the appellant, suborned a court primary witness, Sunil Kulkarni, which is an offence and should be given punishment. While the proceedings, the Delhi High Court just suspended his advocates license under the Advocates Act, 1971 as retribution for his professional misconduct or the Criminal Contempt of Court, but this should not have been the matter.

Rather, the court must have sentenced him the punishment for this heinous crime, interfering with the procedure of court and stripping of the dignity of court but court in instance suspended the license for four months which seems to be unjustifiable and biased. It was also unethical on the part of R.K. Anand to suborn the witness, which he must know as a professional, is not a principle of natural justice. The appellants must be given a notice before as to maintain the decorum of the court, not allowing him to attend the hearing, but that was not the case thereof.

While the proceedings, NDTV did the sting operation to uncover the facts and accountability of the case, by recording audio by tech chips of R.K. Anand, I.U Khan and Sunil Kulkarni. The evidence was accepted by court but is unacceptable on the moral or ethical perspective as doing sting operations without letting the court know or without the permission of the bench is a breach of privity of the Individual. The court must have followed the Indian Evidence Act for the evidences which created the confusion.

Even R.K. Anand offered the Supreme Court to examine the recording clips in Forensic Institute as these are tampered with, but court did not step on any action and upheld his appeal and freed I.U Khan, who from the initial of proceeding questioned the validity of the recordings.

In an instance, individual charged of Criminal Contempt of Court are rarely given any chance to cross-examine the witness depending upon the nature and degree of the case, but R.K. Anand was not allowed to examine Poonam Agarwal, who was involved in the sting operation, seems to be wrong.

Further, R.K. Anand again filed the appeal for his conviction and also, I.U Khan, but the court didn't admit the appeal of R.K. Anand as his punishment was increased and I.U had completed the four months. The Court in instance argued that the ruled have not been set up regarding this subject matter and that's why they can't allow but Supreme Court of India directed all the High Courts to not extend the making of rules.

  1. Diva Rai, R.K. Anand vs. Registrar, Delhi High Court: case, iPleader (18th February, 2023 5:43 AM), R.K. Anand v. Registrar, Delhi High Court : case analysis - iPleaders
  2. Diva Rai, R.K. Anand vs. Registrar, Delhi High Court: case, iPleader (18th February, 2023 5:43 AM), R.K. Anand v. Registrar, Delhi High Court : case analysis - iPleaders
  3. Diva Rai, R.K. Anand vs. Registrar, Delhi High Court: case, iPleader (18th February, 2023 5:43 AM), R.K. Anand v. Registrar, Delhi High Court : case analysis - iPleaders

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