Satinder Paul Dhillon has been fighting for his right to say the truth in the face of court orders, which led to criminal contempt proceedings being initiated against him.
In a few days from now, 36 year old Satinder Singh Dhillon, a Canadian citizen born to Indian origin parents, will know his fate under the Contempt Law in Canada. His case stems from an involuntary bankruptcy proceeding against Mr Erwin Braich, which was initiated all the way back in 1999, as Mr Dhillon says, in an attempt to extort Mr Braich. KPMG was engaged as the administrator of the allegedly insolvent's assets, Mr Dhillon was one of the creditors to the allegedly insolvent party and was owed $3 million at the time. Mr Dhillon has pointed out over the years of the proceedings that KPMG has not executed the court's orders on the involuntary bankruptcy for over 14 years, making it the longest running bankruptcy case in Canada.
In 2009, then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia passed an order which said, “all persons having notice of this Order shall not, either directly or indirectly, make or continue to make or continue any publication of any kind including in a pleading which expresses any disparaging or defamatory statements about the Trustee, or any other person or entity connected to the administration of this bankruptcy." The trustee in this case was KPMG, the global consulting giant.
However, It is alleged that Mr Dhillon later published a blog titled “KPMG Stifles Freedom of Speech in Desperate Move.” Consequently, Satinder Dhillon was arrested and interrogated under section 127 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which deals with contempt of court. Mr Dhillon, a businessman and an activist himself, has been through various health troubles in the course of this fight. Finally, on 17 September 2014, the court convened to rule on whether “truth can be used as a defence” in cases of contempt.
Mr Dhillon has been arguing his own case, sometimes dramatically appearing in court with a wheelchair and a yoga mat and pillow handy in case he collapsed. There is bound to be more drama with Mark Stephens, lawyer of Wikileak's founder Julian Assange joining the last phase of his defence, along with Mumbai based advocate Jamshed Mistry, who even stood up for Mr Dhillon at the last hearing in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on 17th September.
Contempt laws have been decried as draconian and unfair all over the world. A vestige of the colonial past, it was recently in the limelight following Justice Katju's tirade against contempt laws. In this present case too says Mr Dhillon, “the arguments being presented will be to see if truth is allowed as a defence in this great nation!(sic)”
In contempt cases like that of Sahara's Subroto Roy, the court eventually acted against him when his disobedience of court orders was clear. The prosecutor on behalf of the Crown (Canadian state still pleads under the Crown) has argued that Mr Dhillon's alleged actions directly disobeyed the court's instruction. “I am fed up with being treated as a second class citizen and having to live at the whim of KPMG's power in this country,” he said in a release uploaded on the internet.
Finally, the judgement will test whether Mr Dhillon's arguments that his freedom of expression has been impinged, and in exercise of his freedom of expression whether a contempt law can ignore the contents of what is said or written. Mr Dhillon insists that what is written is true and in public interest, therefore the contempt proceedings are not justified and that the larger public good is also compromised by not allowing him to speak out against KPMG's actions. Mr Dhillon also alleges that KPMG is involved in trying to cover up what could quite possibly be the largest income tax fraud in the history of Canada. The well-known Mumbai-based lawyer Jamshed Mistry has been helping Mr Dhillon and has also appeared for him in the court.