The Supreme Court has told a Contemnor, who was a petitioner in a PIL that was dismissed with cost and who had not paid the cost imposed by the Court, that charges will be framed against him in case he fails to file his reply on next Wednesday, i.e. March 13.

"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 said.

The Bench of Justice C.T. Ravikumar and Justice Rajesh Bindal passed the order on Wednesday while it 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."

Cost was imposed on him in December 2022 for filing a PIL seeking to declare the late religious figure Sri Sri Thakur Anukul Chandra as 'Paramatma'.

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

To which, the Bench told Dalai that mobile phones cannot be given and that all the required documents would be given to him in printed form.

"We are of the view that instead of issuing direction to the SHO to return the said mobile phone (if it was actually taken into custody) it is only proper to furnish him the copies of relevant materials to enable him to file such reply," the Bench said.

Dalai responded, "Thik hai Sir aap jitne saal meko custody mei denge mai rahunga ( Alright Sir, I will stay in custody as long as you want me to), Iske badh mai jawab dungs (I will reply after that)".

Then Justice Bindal said, "Then you deserve it, I think." The Bench directed that the Contemnor be provided with all the documents on record for the purpose of enabling him to file the reply.

However, Dalai (the Contemnor) said that he will not accept such documents and will file a reply only from the documents present in his mobile phone.

"Though the alleged contemnor readily responded, rather stated, that he would not be filing any reply without obtaining his mobile phone, we direct the Registry to provide forthwith, all the materials which are already on record for the purpose of enabling him to prepare and file the reply," the Court said.

The Court observed, "The petitioner would not accept such documents, he would prepare a reply only if the mobile phone is provided to him. He is prepared to remain in the jail. he is very adamant and said that he is ready to remain in jail till mobile phone is provided to him".

"The nature of the alleged contempt is such that, it would be possible for him to file a reply without perusing contents of the material that we offer to provide. In such circumstances, the petitioner shall taken back to custody and shall remain in custody till he volunteers to file a reply," the Court said.

The Court further said, "With this attitude of the petitioner, we are of the view that Charges have to be framed. For framing the charge, list the matter on Wednesday. He shall be produced before the Court."

The Court ordered, "All the documents mentioned herein above, which are sufficient to file shall be provided to the petitioner and it is also made clear that it is open to the petitioner to go through it and file reply."

The suo moto contempt was initiated against Dalai in 2023, and on January 23, 2024, non-bailable warrants were issued against him. “Taking note of the failure on the part of the petitioner in W.P. (C) No. 875/2022 to deposit the cost imposed, suo moto contempt proceedings were initiated," the Court had ordered.

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. The Court was hearing a plea filed by Dalai seeking to declare Chandra as 'Paramatma'.

While dismissing the plea, the Apex Court said in its order, "India is a secular country and the petitioner cannot be permitted to pray that the citizens of India may accept Sri Sri Thakur Anukul Chandra as 'Paramatma'. This is not a genuine public interest litigation at all and it seems to be publicity interest litigation which deserves to be dismissed with costs."

As per the website of the organisation of his followers called, Satsang, "Sri Sri Thakur Anukul Chandra was an incarnate of God, in the lineage of all the past prophets namely, Sri Ramachandra, Sri Krishna, Lord Buddha, Lord Jesus, Prophet Mohammed, Sri Chaitanya and Sri Ramakrishna".

Cause Title: In Re: Contempt Against Upendra Nath Dalai

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