KARNATAKA

Advocate held guilty of contempt of court

BANGALORE, OCT. 7. An advocate from Bangalore who was found guilty of contempt of court surrendered to the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday. He was later taken into custody by the police.

The advocate, B.N. Shivanna, was appointed marketing executive of Advanta India Ltd., a Secunderabad-based company with a branch in Bangalore.

The company said it was marketing high quality hybrid seeds in Karnataka and other parts of the country. Shivanna was initially appointed marketing executive, but he resigned the job to complete his law course.

In 1999, he was retained for two years by the company as its legal adviser and his appointment was later regularised.

Cases

The company said that Shivanna took advantage of cases being filed against other seed companies by telling it that criminal cases had been filed against Advanta also. The company officials were led to believe that a large number of criminal cases against Advanta had been filed in various courts in the State.

Shivanna ensured that a policeman with warrants visited the company's premises on Airport Road. Shivanna told his employers that he had managed to ensure that the warrants were not executed.

Court fee

When a policeman came to the company for the first time on November 22, 2000, he had 36 warrants.

The company was told that there were 59 warrants from Hubli, 22 from Mysore, 27 from Bellary, 36 from Chitradurga, and 44 from Sandur in Bellary district.

Shivanna created an impression that more than 500 criminal cases were pending against the company.

He said the company would have to contest the cases in the High Court and a court fee of Rs. 10,000 for each case would have to be paid in the Registry. He said he could obtain court stamps for Rs. 10,000 from a stamp vendor named Gauri, who was registered with the Advocates' Association. In all, the company paid Rs. 62 lakhs to Shivanna towards stamp fees. He also sought additional payment because other advocates would have to be hired to argue the cases. The total amount paid to Shivanna came to Rs. 72 lakhs.

Records

When the company felt that there were no positive results despite spending lakhs of rupees, it enquired with Shivanna, who failed to offer a convincing explanation.

It then asked Shivanna to produce records relating to the payment of court fees and the cases. Shivanna gave the company a High Court order passed by Justice G. Patri Basavanagouda allowing 341 criminal petitions against the company.

The company came to know that there was no provision to pay the court fee of Rs. 10,000. It suspected the bona fides of Shivanna and approached the Commissioner of Stamps. The commissioner told the company that no person by name Gauri was registered as a stamp vendor. Besides, the serial numbers indicated in the stamps were yet to be issued.

The company said it later came to know that Gauri was Shivanna's mother-in-law. It said Gauri was not registered with the Advocates' Association and that she was a housewife.

The company wrote to the Registrar-General of the High Court enclosing a copy of the order.

The High Court found that no such order had been issued and it initiated contempt proceedings against Shivanna. Though charges were framed against him, Shivanna denied them.

Fabrication

The High Court ruled that Shivanna had fabricated the order and was, therefore, liable to be punished for contempt (criminal) of court. On August 18, 2004, a Division Bench comprising Justice A.M. Farooq and Justice S.R. Bannurmath maintained that the advocate had misused the trust of the company, committed forgery, and concocted a judgment.

The Bench said such action had not only lowered the dignity of the court but also its prestige in the eyes of the public. It said it was desirable to impose maximum punishment under the Contempt of Court Act.

The advocate was sentenced to six months' simple imprisonment and asked to pay a fine of Rs. 2,000.

The Registrar (Judicial) was directed to prepare a warrant of commitment and detention order.

The Bench suspended the sentence for four weeks when the advocate said he wanted to appeal against the order.

When the case came up for hearing on Wednesday, the advocate said he had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court.

He said the Supreme Court had admitted the matter and directed him to surrender before the High Court.