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Contempt against lawyer for posting screenshot of hearing, HC lets him go after apology

Calcutta HC has initiated suo motu contempt proceeding against advocate Shiv Ratan Kakrania for sharing screenshot of an online hearing on LinkedIn on 5 June.

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New Delhi: Sharing the screenshot of a hearing conducted through video conference landed a lawyer in trouble with the Calcutta High Court earlier this month. He was, however, let off after he tendered an unconditional apology. 

Advocate Shiv Ratan Kakrania had posted a screenshot on LinkedIn of a hearing in a case he was involved in, saying, “We are #happy to#share that we managed to obtain an #Ante‐ #Arbitration #Injunction (ICC Arbitration) in a matter before the Calcutta High Court”.

The hearing was over an application filed by Kakrania’s client, demanding a stay on the arbitration proceedings before the ICC International Court of Arbitration, which arose on a request made by the defendants under a shareholders’ agreement. 

On 5 June, the court had ordered a four-week stay on the arbitration proceedings, noting that the issues raised require “appropriate adjudication”. The court had also called for affidavits to be filed in the case. Kakrania had shared the post the same day.

Three objections

Taking note of the post, Justice Rajasekhar Mantha on 12 August raised three issues indicating “impropriety” from the post. 

The court raised objections to the screenshot being taken, “which is equivalent to a photograph of a Court Proceeding, without the leave of this Court”. It also said that the screenshot was then shared on LinkedIn without the court’s knowledge or permission. 

“An insinuation may be evident from the aforesaid writing on the page in question seen with the screenshot,” the court further said. This was due to the language used and the use of the word “managed” in the post. 

The court expressed its “deep displeasure” at the post and was of the view that “it has been done in bad taste”. 

Justice Mantha even considered not hearing the arbitration case anymore. However, the judge was convinced by the lawyers from both the parties involved in the case to continue hearing it, pointing out that substantial resources had already been spent on the case. 

Also read: India turned a blind eye to Justice Karnan, an ‘outsider’. Prashant Bhushan is different

Unconditional apology

While Kakrania tendered an unconditional apology during the hearing and assured the court that it was bona fide, the court nevertheless directed a suo motu contempt proceeding to be listed against the lawyer. He was asked to “file an affidavit… explaining his conduct”. 

According to the order passed on 25 August, Kakrania filed an affidavit on 19 August, tendering an unconditional apology and accepting that publishing a screenshot of the court proceedings without the court’s permission was “incorrect”.

The lawyer informed the court that the screenshot was deleted soon after.

“He has also explained that the statement made in the publication was wholly unintentional. He did not want to lower the dignity or the majesty of the Court. He has also apologised for the same,” the court noted. 

Justice Mantha, therefore, let him off with a warning, observing, “The contempt proceedings are dropped with a warning, however, to Mr. Shiv Ratan Kakrania not to repeat such conduct in future.”

Of late, screenshots of video conference hearings are being posted on social media platforms by several lawyers. Even video recordings of these hearings are being made, with some having gone viral. 

The most prominent among this was the one in which senior advocate Rajiv Dhawan was captured on camera smoking hookah during a virtual hearing of the Rajasthan High Court earlier this month. 

Also read: ‘Not dealing with such attacks may affect India’s honour’ — why SC found Bhushan in contempt


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