Use of ‘disparaging’ language against sitting judge: HC initiates contempt proceedings against senior counsel


The Gujarat High Court Monday initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against designated senior counsel Percy Kavina for allegedly using “unparliamentary” and “disparaging” language against a sitting judge and thereby, allegedly “lowering down the majesty and dignity of the institution.”

The incident happened when Kavina was arguing before the court of Justice Devan Desai in a first appeal of 1979 on July 7 when he allegedly used “unparliamentary language” while addressing the judge.

A division bench of Justices AS Supehia and MR Mengedey initiated the suo motu contempt proceedings against Kavina under Article 215 of the Indian Constitution and provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act. The court directed the HC’s administrative side to register the matter as suo motu contempt proceedings.

Noting that the senior counsel used “unparliamentary language”, the division bench recorded that Kavina made a statement along the lines of “arre sahab, kai toh sharam rakho (hey sir, have some shame)”. “Apart from using the aforesaid expressions, we have also found that he used disparaging language,” the court further recorded.

The bench also directed the registrar general to “prepare the report of the incident containing all details” and also directed it to “inquire about the address of senior counsel” so as to issue notice, if required, at a later stage.

Kavina, who was present before the division bench Monday, requested the court to refrain from initiating the proceedings. He sought that he be permitted to approach the concerned judge to whom he had made the said intemperate remarks and that he be allowed to tender his unconditional apology. He also requested that he be given an opportunity to explore informal modes of settlement before the court initiates formal proceedings.

“A lot of back history exists in this. If intemperate language has been used by me, after these proceedings commence, I will not have anything to say unless I try to justify my conduct… Therefore, I urge that before commencing these proceedings in a formal fashion, if an informal solution is possible, I would rather request your lordship to explore that… Commencement of these proceedings itself is a very serious thing…Was this conduct reprehensible? I agree it was. In litigation, I can give several excuses as to why I reached that stage that I did but that is not the purpose, that is ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. Therefore, requesting that this case not be registered,” he said.

In response, Justice Supehia remarked, “What you’ve done is also very serious..It’s a very serious offence that has lowered down the majesty and the dignity of the court…In order to see that appropriate facts are gathered, we are not issuing notice.”

The bench permitted Kavina to explore his options and come back before the division bench at 2:30 pm.

Subsequently, Kavina apologised to Justice Desai in the second sitting of the court. Admitting before Justice Desai’s court that he made “intemperate remarks” causing “disrepute” to the judiciary, Kavina said, “When on sober reflection, I realised that I’ve attempted to make amends. I was also somewhat under a wrong impression because of the hearing that took place that day, your lordship was kind enough to accede to an adjournment. I was under the mistaken belief that your lordship had condoned my submission at that time. I have understood that my submissions were uncalled for, unwarranted and I express regret about the same. I unconditionally apologise and withdraw those submissions. I will also as a matter of penance, will not be appearing in this matter again. In furtherance of the order passed on 7.7.2023…I regret the language, tone, and the contents of my submissions, especially those made in the vernacular.”

Following Kavina’s apology, Justice Desai recorded in an order, “It is the submission of learned senior counsel Mr Percy Kavina to accept his unconditional apology. It is further submitted by learned senior counsel Mr Percy Kavina that only the court concerned can accept or reject the unconditional apology tendered by him… In view of the above submissions, this court is of the opinion that what has happened on 07.07.2023, should not have happened and the words used by learned senior counsel Mr Percy Kavina were derogatory. Since the proposed suo-motu contempt proceedings have not yet commenced, the learned senior counsel Mr Percy Kavina may request the concerned Hon’ble Division Bench for seeking unconditional apology.”

Owing to the single judge’s order not recording whether the court has decided to accept the apology or not, the division bench has now initiated the proceedings. The matter has been kept for further consideration for July 17.


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