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Judicial officer held guilty of contempt of court

Special Correspondent

His order countered High Court injunction in a civil case

CHENNAI: A subordinate judicial officer, who passed an order counter to an injunction granted by the Madras High Court, was held guilty of contempt of court by a Division Bench on Friday.

However, considering his clean service record and unconditional apology, the Bench discharged him from contempt proceedings with a stern warning.

The Bench comprising Justice M. Karpagavinayagam and Justice S.R. Singharavelu laid down a guideline for the subordinate judiciary underlining the need for judicial restraint and discipline.

The matter pertains to a civil dispute between D. Geetha and her mother D. Thulasi Ammal. Even when an order of interim injunction granted by the High Court in favour of the mother was in force, B. Ramalingam, the then III Additional Judge, City Civil Court, disposed of a miscellaneous plea from the daughter and granted interim injunction with regard to the property. The mother initiated the contempt proceedings.

When asked for an explanation, Mr. Ramalingam, now Additional District Judge-cum-Presiding Officer of the Special Court for Essential Commodities Act cases in Salem, submitted that he had disposed of the miscellaneous plea since there was no stay on its disposal.

Holding that the explanation "did not reflect his (Mr. Ramalingam's) realisation of the grave illegality he had committed," the Bench directed him to appear before it on September 29. "He did not choose to regret nor did he indicate realisation of the grave misconduct committed by him," it said. Mr. Ramalingam appeared in court and filed affidavits tendering an unconditional apology besides an undertaking that he would not repeat the mistake.

A.L. Somayaji, senior counsel for the contemnor, submitted that the act could be condoned in view of his service record, apology and the undertaking.

The Bench acceded to the plea, but said it would amount to judicial impropriety for the subordinate courts to ignore the settled decisions of the High Courts and the Supreme Court, and then pass orders contrary to the settled legal position. "Such judicial adventurism should be avoided."

The judges said: "If the subordinate judiciary refuses to carry out the directions given to it by the superior judiciary... the result will be chaos in the administration of justice... Such directions would be destructive to the hierarchical system in the administration of justice."

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