Madras High Court Initiates Criminal Contempt Against Advocate For Sharing ‘Derogatory’ WhatsApp Audio Messages Against Judge

The Madras High Court has instituted criminal contempt proceedings against an advocate for disseminating ‘derogatory’ audio messages about a judge. After hearing the audio messages created by the lawyer against him, Justice M Dhandapani directed that suo moto contempt proceedings be initiated.

The incident occurred while Justice Dhandapani’s bench was hearing bail applications from a lawyer and her daughter in a case involving lockdown violations. The bail applicants were accused of misbehaving and threatening the police officers who had stopped their vehicle. While hearing the bail application, Justice Dhandapani’s bench had previously added the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry as a respondent in the matter to decide the issue of developing a mechanism to deal with lawyers who engage in unruly behaviour in public while abusing their status as an advocate.

Another lawyer, Krishnamoorthy, objected to Justice Dhandapani’s action and shared audio messages on WhatsApp saying that the judge was acting against the interests of advocates. The Court stated that the lawyer in the audio message attributed malafides to the Judge and suggested that he recuse himself from hearing the case. According to the audio, the Judge took a lopsided view of the case and was biassed in the matter.

According to Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, the advocate’s actions constituted “criminal contempt.” In the aforementioned scenario, if this Court does not take any action against the aforementioned individual, Mr. R.Krishnamoorthy, it will have a cascading effect, eroding the general public’s faith in the justice delivery system and also pushing the judicial system to the brink of collapse. “In light of the foregoing, this Court believes that this is a case in which this Court should initiate criminal contempt proceedings under Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act,” the Court stated.

The Registry was directed to issue notice of the initiation of Suo Motu Criminal Contempt proceedings against the said Mr.R.Krishnamoorthy, as provided for under Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act, and to then refer the matter to the Chief Justice for listing before the appropriate Bench for hearing.

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