The Karnataka High Court, on Tuesday, directed its registry to ascertain the details of a man, who was seen appearing semi-naked during a virtual court hearing, when senior advocate Indira Jaising was arguing a matter. A division bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum also directed the issuance of notice to the concerned person. It is not clear whether the notice issued is a contempt notice.
Jaising was arguing a case on behalf of the victim, who accused a former minister of the Karnataka Government, Ramesh Jarkiholi of sexual harassment, when a semi-naked man was seen visible on the virtual platform of the Court for at least 15-20 minutes. She demanded from the Court that a dignified decorum be maintained.
“A person is appearing on video conference platform without a vest, he is visible in this courtroom. Please take a judicial note of this. It is very offensive for a woman to see a man without clothes in a courtroom. It is very demeaning to a woman lawyer,” Jaising told the bench. She accused that person of staring at her during the hearing. His name on the VC platform could be seen as ‘Shridhar Bhat’.
When the bench inquired who that person was, as it could not see him because it was going through the papers, Jaising replied “I don’t know who he is but it is so offensive to see a naked man in court while arguing in the High Court. I am making my submission and all I can see is a naked man. I have never seen anything like this during any hybrid hearing.”
When the bench inquired from the Court staff about the person, it was told that it tried calling the offender but he did not respond. On the vehement request of Jaising, the Court proceeded to issue a notice to that person after identifying his details.
“One final request milords, a personal request. Milords I have been deeply disturbed by the fact that I was exposed to a semi-naked man in this court…I was exposed to a semi-naked man in this courtroom for over 20 minutes whose name was also visible. This should never happen again. It is very disturbing,” Jaising urged the Court.
The case in point is a challenge to the order passed by the then Karnataka Home Minister and the present Chief Minister, Basavaraj Somappa Bommai, who constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the allegations made by the accused minister that he was being framed in a false case by the victim and political parties. The Commissioner of Police, Bangalore, subsequently transferred the FIR filed by the victim to the SIT. Earlier this year, the High Court directed the SIT not to file a report before the Magistrate without the leave of the Court.
Today, the High Court was considering whether leave should be granted to the SIT to file closure, since the head of the SIT has approved the investigation carried out by M.C. Kavitha, Assistant Commissioner of Police. Though the Court seemed inclined to vacate the interim order, the vehement opposition by Jaising that the Court first needs to decide the validity of the constitution of the SIT and the nature of its report, led the bench to maintain the status quo. The Court directed the Government to file an application if it wishes, to request the court to vacate its stay order.
Earlier, the bench had questioned the legality of the SIT report in the absence of its chief, who had been on leave for a long time.