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Published On: Sat, Jan 14th, 2017

Prashant Bhushan objects to Bombay HC judge hearing a case involving Reliance

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imagesNEW DELHI : The Supreme Court on Friday saw aggressive submissions by advocate Prashant Bhushan and Senior Advocate Shyam Divan regarding a judge of the Bombay High Court hearing a case involving Reliance Industries.

The judge is Justice SC Gupte. He had heard a contempt petition against one Anil Kumar Podar, who had published allegedly defamatory articles against Reliance and Mukesh Ambani.

The case dates back to 2008, when Podar published an article in a Calcutta-based newspaper about Reliance. Defamation proceedings were initiated against him, and the Bombay High Court passed an order restraining him from making any defamatory publication against Reliance or any of its officers.

It is, however, alleged that he went ahead and published another defamatory article in 2011, leading to contempt proceedings in the High Court.The matter was first heard by a single judge, Justice SC Gupte, who sentenced him to three months’ imprisonment.

The said order was confirmed by a Division Bench, leading to an appeal in the Supreme Court. When the matter was taken up today before a Bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and AM Khanwilkar, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Podar, made some strong submissions against Justice SC Gupte for having heard the case in High Court. He said,
“He was counsel for Reliance before he became a judge. He has recused himself from other cases involving Reliance. Somebody who has recused himself in Reliance matter before has now taken up this matter and sentenced me to three months in prison.”

Regarding the articles written by Podar, Prashant Bhushan submitted that there is nothing defamatory in them, as they stated the factual position. Senior Advocate Shyam Divan opposed Bhushan’s arguments. He particularly took strong objection to Bhushan’s argument regarding Justice Gupte hearing the matter in High Court.
“He is constantly litigating against us. Now he is making reckless allegations against the judge. There is no bar on hearing cases involving Reliance unless he was involved in a particular case as a lawyer. He had recused from a case in which he was a counsel for Reliance.”
Regarding the charge of defamation, Divan read out excerpts from the allegedly defamatory articles submitting that it was grossly defamatory. He also said that the article was in violation of the injunction order passed by the High Court in 2008.
The court, after hearing the parties, proceeded to issue notice to Reliance in the matter. The case is now posted for hearing on February 6.


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