A division bench of the Bombay High Court of Justice SS Shinde and Abhay Ahuja, on Thursday, while hearing a plea to keep Delhi University professor Hany Babu in house arrest, took exception to advocate Yug Chaudhary’s associate writing an editorial column for a national newspaper, pertaining to a hearing on arrested Jesuit Priest Stan Swamy's plea for bail on medical grounds. The court, after perusing the report from Breach Candy hospital which stated that Babu could be discharged, said, “Certain level of illness is required to keep someone in continuous medical attention. The hospital says he is fit to be discharged then how can we force it to keep him there.”
Chaudhary told the court, “My client isn't all good now. We aren't asking to keep him in jail. There are certain things which are not fully well with him. His optic nerve continues to be swollen. The court can consider granting house arrest.” “No. We will hear you on merits. We cannot keep the main matter pending,” the court responded. Chaudhary contested, “He has just recovered from Covid then how can he be sent back to jail. His house is in Kerala but we are ready to take a rental house in Bombay.”
The bench then said, “Mr Chaudhary, UAPA is bigger. We can't pass such casual order. We aren't sending him in jail but we will order to shift him to JJ hospital.” Chaudhary again contested, “If that's the case then let him be in Breach Candy only. Why to shift him to JJ Hospital.”
Meanwhile, special counsel for NIA Sandesh Patil told the bench that he has no objection if Babu is kept in Breach Candy hospital till the next hearing. "We will hear on merits on the next date. Till then let the Breach Candy hospital submit a report if Babu can be allowed to be there for a few days," the court said, adding, "We will also allow his family members to meet him but subject to hospital protocol."
The bench then referred to the article criticising the HC for its approach in Stan Swamy's plea and went on to say, “We have learnt that you are writing some articles criticising the courts and executives.” Chaudhary questioned, “Are you saying you cannot be criticised for your actions?”
“How can you write in cases in which you are appearing. Is that ethical?” questioned Justice Shinde. “I don't appear for Stan Swamy,” said Chaudhary. “But you appear in the group of matters related to him. You go on writing. When you don't have faith in us then why come before us. This is a way to pressurise the courts,” said Justice Shinde.
“I will continue to write and come before you seeking reliefs,” Chaudhary contested. “This isn't acceptable. You cannot write articles when you are appearing in a group of matters. You are an officer of this court so unless you have faith in the system how will you assist us. You go and write, every day, we have no objection to it. But when you are arguing before us but have no faith in us then what's the point," Justice Shinde remarked.
To this, Chaudhary said that the court must uphold free speech. "We are the last to say that there should be some restrictions on freedom of expression. We are not concerned about what you write etc but faith is everything. If you don't have faith in us then why argue with two minds?” said Justice Shinde. “If I appear in a case and me or someone from my chambers go and write about it. I will stand rebuked. But not when I am not appearing in a case, and I write,” said Chaudhary.
“UAPA is bigger. We can't give relief directly. We have to cross over the hurdle of the Supreme Court judgment in UAPA cases (section 43 that bars courts from giving bail),” said Justice Shinde.
The judge further reiterated that the parties must have faith in the courts. "I read that article because someone asked me to read it. It is a well worded article only where I stuck was faith. So, please keep faith in us. We have passed orders upholding free speech and expression. Thus, have faith in us," Justice Shinde said, adding, "We aren't afraid of anybody. The law is what matters and the facts of a case. We aren't afraid of anyone. We aren't under any pressure. Take this word from our side."
The judge further referred to how he passed the orders in Telugu poet Varavara Rao's plea for medical bail. "There was pressure in that matter too. It was also a crucial matter. We passed orders without any fear or favour in it," the judge said.