A Gujarat High Court judge, who deals with criminal revision cases, on Wednesday recused herself from hearing Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's appeal challenging a Surat sessions court order refusing to stay his conviction in a criminal defamation suit over his "Modi surname" remark.
When Gandhi's lawyer P S Champaneri mentioned the case before the court of Justice Gita Gopi, seeking an urgent hearing, she stated, “Not before me.” Champaneri said the court recused itself after a brief hearing.
Justice Gita Gopi is known to be a tough judge
He said according to the procedure, a note would be sent to the Acting Chief Justice to place the matter before any other court. Champaneri informed that the case was referred to the single bench of Justice Gita Gopi since she deals with criminal revision applications.
Senior lawyers in the Gujarat High Court confided to Free Press Journal, pleading anonymity, that Justice Gita Gopi is known to be a tough judge and not one to buckle under pressure.
While they refused to guess or analyse why the judge would not wish to hear Rahul Gandhi’s appeal against his conviction, one senior lawyer said, “I can tell you with confidence that Justice Gita Gopi is not a shirker and delivers judgments irrespective of the petitioners or the accused.”
Judgements by Judge Gita Gopi
There are several firm orders, including against the ruling BJP in Gujarat, of Justice Gita Gopi which have established her reputation of a “strong no-nonsense” judge, high court lawyers say.
One instance is when she quashed an FIR and the subsequent chargesheet emerging from it against firebrand Patidar agitation spearhead and then Congress leader Hardik Patel in December 2021.
This was the phase, when right from December 2017 State Assembly elections and much earlier until December 2021 when the ruling BJP was hounding Patel with a variety of criminal cases, including petty ones.
Justice Gita Gopi had on December 1, 2021, quashed and set aside an FIR filed at the Bopal police station in Ahmedabad against Hardik Patel for taking out a roadshow way back in December 2017.
The 15-km-long roadshow from Bopal to Nikol had passed through several localities dominated by the Patidar community in Ahmedabad and was organised, though the police refused him permission for the same.
Along with the FIR, Justice Gopi’s court also quashed the chargesheet and the subsequent criminal case before the additional chief judicial magistrate in Ahmedabad.
The FIR was filed against Hardik and two others Sureshbhai and Rajubhai Patel, stating that though the permission for the roadshow was refused they took out the procession in violation of orders promulgated by the additional district magistrate.
Justice Gita Gopi upheld the submissions made by Hardik Patel’s advocate Anand Yagnik and quashed the FIR, the chargesheet and the criminal case. Yagnik had submitted in the high court then that the “FIR is nothing but an abuse of process of law and is filed with ulterior motive,” and that it was filed “only on the basis of conjecture and surmises.”
He argued that the cognizance taken by the magisterial court to register a criminal case on the basis of an FIR and chargesheet was itself not maintainable under Section 188 of the IPC without there being any complaint by the public servant concerned.
He argued that a magisterial court taking cognisance merely on the basis of the police report and not on the basis of any complaint by the public servant concerned, makes the trial itself void ab initio, without jurisdiction and deserves to be quashed and set aside.
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