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Riled By A News Article, Bombay HC Says It Passes Orders Without Fear

Riled By A News Article, Bombay HC Says It Passes Orders Without Fear

The Bombay High Court on Thursday (June 3, 2021), while hearing a bail plea of Delhi University Associate Professor Hany Babu, stated that it passes orders without any fear. 

“We aren't afraid of anybody. The law and facts of a case are what matters. We aren't afraid of anyone. We aren't under any pressure. Take this word from our side”, the Bench said. 

This came in response to a recent opinion article written in a national newspaper by Payoshi Joshi, a colleague of Hany Babu’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Yug Choudhary.

The article pertains to and discusses the Bombay High Court’s decision of denying medical bail to Father Stan Swamy in an Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case. 

Jesuit Priest Stan Swamy told the High Court that his health has deteriorated steadily since his arrest and he wishes to go back to his home. The Bench offered him treatment at the state-run JJ Hospital to which he replied that he would rather suffer and stay in the cell than be admitted to JJ Hospital. 

The article criticizes the Court’s decision of not granting bail despite the deteriorating condition of the 84-year-old and calls the Court’s decision to have Swamy incarcerated ‘cruel’. 

“There is no utility in keeping Swamy incarcerated, only cruelty. The refusal to convert incarceration to house arrest does not square with the recent Supreme Court judgment extolling the virtues of house arrest in mitigating the rigors of incarceration on the ailing. Despite this compelling case for bail, the court denied relief. One is forced to ask, what is the power of the prosecution’s unproven allegations that brings the court to compelling reasons and judicial conscience?”, the article read. 

Referring to the article the Bench of Justice S.S. Shinde and Justice Abhay Ahuja said that the lawyers should repose their trust in judges and refrain from writing on articles in which they appear as counsels.

“We have learned that you are writing some articles criticizing the courts and the executives”, the Bench said. 

To which Senior Counsel Yug Chowdhary replied “Are you saying that you cannot be criticized for your actions?”

The Court then questioned Advocate Chowdhary if it was ethical for his colleague to write an article on a matter for which he was appearing and which was sub-judice. 

“How can you write in cases in which you are appearing? Is that ethical?”, Justice Shide asked.

Yug Chowdhary replied saying that he was not the counsel for Stan Swamy and that he would continue to write articles because he has got a right to do so and continue seeking relief. 

Justice Shinde while pointing out that Choudhary and his juniors were appearing for three accused in the case said “But you appear in the group of matters related to him. You go on writing. When you don’t have faith in us then why come before us? This is a way to pressurise the courts. You are an officer of this court. So, unless you have faith in the system, how will you assist us? You go and write, every day, we have no objection to it. But when you are arguing before us but have no faith in us then what’s the point?”

Addressing the point of the right to freedom of speech Justice Shinde said “We are the last to say that there should be some restrictions on freedom of expression. We are not concerned about what you write but faith is everything. If you don’t have faith in us then why argue with two minds?”

Justice Shinde while giving an example of the medical bail plea in the case of poet Vardhan Rao which was an equally pressurizing and crucial matter said that they hear and allow several matters concerning speech and expression. He urged the lawyers to have faith in them and the system. 

“We are here to do justice unafraid of anyone”, he said.

Choudhary replied saying that it is only because they have faith in the court do they approach the court but “sometimes, the court lets down the faith we have in it.”

The Bench, taking into consideration the reports submitted by the Breach Candy Hospital, directed that Hany Baby be discharged from the hospital.

Choudhary urged the court not to send Babu back to Taloja Central Prison as he still had some persisting eye problems. He requested the court to consider granting him house arrest.

Advocate Sandesh Patil appearing on behalf of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said that he does not have a problem if Babu continues to stay at the hospital. 

The Bombay High Court then directed that Hany Babu be kept in Breach Candy Hospital till the next date of hearing on June 15. The Court further directed the hospital to submit fresh reports on Hany Babu’s medical status and permitted Hany Babu’s wife, daughter, and mother to visit him at the hospital. 

BACKGROUND:

Stan Swamy (July 28, 2020), and Hany Babu (October 8, 2020) were arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad Case. 

The Bhima Koregaon case dates back to January 1, 2018, the day of the bicentenary celebrations of the Bhima Koregaon battle. The celebration was marred by violence leading to the death of one person and injuries to several others.

Following an eyewitness account, an FIR was registered at the Pimpri Police Station on January 2, 2018. Another FIR was filed by the Pune Police on January 8, 2018, claiming that the event was organized as part of alleged Maoist activity. 

The NIA which took over the investigation into the Elgar Parishan/Bhima Koregaon case alleges that all the accused have links with the banned CPI (Maoist). So far 16 people have been arrested including Stan Swamy and Hany Babu.

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