The Supreme Court today appointed a Senior Advocate as an Amicus Curiae to assist the Court in a Contempt Case against a man who refused to pay the cost imposed on him while dismissing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by him seeking declaration of late religious figure Sri Sri Thakur Anukul Chandra as 'Paramatma'.

The Supreme Court noted the difference in the way the PIL was drafted and how his reply to the contempt proceedings is now drafted by him while in custody. The Court asked the Amicus Curiae to find out who was behind the PIL that was filed by the alleged contemnor.

The Court remarked, "Just see the drafting of that and now the drafting of his reply, because now he is in custody. Just see the contrast. You need to see who is behind. We have gone through the Petition, many lawyers will not be able to draft it."

The Bench of Justice C.T. Ravikumar and Justice Rajesh Bindal was hearing a suo-moto contempt proceedings initiated against Upendra Nath Dalai after he failed to deposit the cost of Rs 1 lakh that was imposed on him for filing a "publicity interest litigation."

At the outset, the Contemnor who was produced before the Court, handed over a copy of his reply. "Mai aaj reply lekr aya hoon (I have come with the reply)", he submitted.

The Bench noted, "He (Contemnor) did not sign these things or file it. How can we.." Thereafter, the Contemnor signed his reply.

Upon perusal of the Contemnor's reply, the Court asked him if he required any legal assistance. Justice Bindal asked, "Aapko koi Advocate ki assistance chahiye? (Do you want any assistance of an Advocate)."

To this, the Contemnor responded, "Mai apne aap krunga (I will do it myself)."

Justice Ravikumar clarified, "We put this question, because of certain words (in reply). It appears that you require legal assistance. We are offering it. It is upto you. Your understanding of the law is not correct. We are still offering. It is a serious matter. We can provide legal assistance, you can take it."

The Contemnor responded, "Nai mai kudh ladhunga (I will fight it by myself). Mera koi galat h toh meko jail dijiye (If I have committed any wrong, send me in jail)."

The Bench decided to give the Contemnor one more chance to file an unconditional apology. "We are not required to give a further chance, still we are giving one more chance. We'll list the matter on Monday. You have to be taken back (to custody). We are giving him time to think further, if he's not filing an unconditional apology for all of these things, Monday we will frame the charge," the Court said.

The Court recorded in its order: "The alleged contemnor filed a reply. Virtually it is not filed. The reply is handed over to us in Court. Taken on record. Going through the same, we find that instead of apologizing for the contempt...However, taking note of the fact that the petitioner is not well-versed in law, he should be given more time to think and file an appropriate reply, if he is prepared to seek apology. We have specifically asked the Contemnor whether he requires legal assistance. He has replied that he did not require any legal assistance and he himself will defend the matter. However, taking note of the nature of reply and the seriousness of the matter, we think that the Court requires assistant. In that circumstances, the Court appoints a Senior Lawyer as Amicus Curiae to assist the Court."

The Court gave a brief history of the matter to the Amicus and since the petitioner is not well versed in law and the matter is a serious one, Amicus Curiae is being appointed.

Justice Bindal also directed the Amicus Curiae, "You also need to examine one thing, he (Contemnor) also filed the Writ Petition in-person, just see the drafting of that and now the drafting of his reply, because now he is in custody. Just see the contrast. You need to see who is behind. We have gone through the Petition, many lawyers will not be able to draft it. And see the reply now filed."

Accordingly, the Court adjourned the matter for further hearing on March 18 at 2 pm.

On March 6, the Bench had told the Contemnor that charges will be framed against him in case he failed to file his reply in the Contempt case. "It is made clear in case of his failure to file affidavit on or before 13.03.2024, this Court may proceed to frame charge(s) against him", the Court had said.

In the last hearing, Upendra Nath Dalai was produced in Court. He had sought permission for getting access to his mobile phone, to file a reply in the contempt petition. Dalai had submitted that the documents that were required for filing the reply were in his phone.

In December 2022, while dismissing a PIL seeking to declare the late religious figure Sri Sri Thakur Anukul Chandra as 'Paramatma', the Supreme Court had said that India is a secular country, and everybody has a right to their religion. A Bench of Justice M. R. Shah and Justice C. T. Ravikumar had also imposed a cost of Rs 1 lakh on the petitioner for filing a "publicity interest litigation." "If you want you can consider him as 'Paramatma' (supreme being). Why enforce it on others?" the Bench had observed.

Cause Title: In Re: Contempt Against Upendra Nath Dalai [SMC (C) No. 3/2023]