Gujarat High Court orders installation of CCTVs in Registry, courtrooms after advocate found tampering with case listing

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The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday ordered the Registrar of the High Court to expeditiously complete the installation of CCTV cameras in the Registry in a strategic manner so as to ensure that no court document is tampered with [Dharmesh Jivanlal Gurjar v. State of Gujarat].

The Registrar informed single-judge Justice Sandeep Bhatt that somebody played “mischief” with a clear intention to avoid listing of a case on the ‘admission board’ of the judge. This, after Justice Bhatt on October 9 had indicated that he would pass stringent orders in the said matter.

“Therefore, the petitioner, who is a practicing advocate is also under the scanner as he and other advocates of his near circle are known for indulging in such practice, more particularly in the Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT), of playing with the legal process and also playing mischief by indulging in the unfair practice,” the judge observed in the order.

The Court said this is clearly an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice.

“This activity cannot be tolerated more particularly, in the Registry of the highest Court of the State. Such unscrupulous persons should be taken to task,” it added.

The judge, however, noted that due to lack of proper installation of CCTVs, each and every corner of the Registry could not be captured. As a result, conclusive material in the instant case couldn’t be collected.

The Court was hearing the case of one Dharmesh Gurjar, who was initially booked for demanding a ₹2 lakh bribe while acting as a court-appointed commissioner for the Debts Recovery Tribunal (DRT) Ahmedabad. He had filed a petition in 2020 to quash the case against him.

However, Justice Bhatt on October 9 said that the High Court was not inclined to consider the plea, after which Gurjar sought to withdraw the same.

The judge, however, had made it clear that the withdrawal would be accompanied with a direction to the Bar Council of Gujarat to initiate proceedings against the lawyer for professional misconduct.

At that time, the matter was listed on the ‘admission board’ (fresh cases) on Justice Bhatt’s roster. However, the judge noted that the records of the Court were tampered with, as the same matter was then posted as item number 200 in the ‘final hearing board.’

The judge had explained in his October 26 order that such mischief was done purposely to avoid a hearing, since the Court usually hears cases up to item number 70 in the daily list.

In the order passed on Wednesday, the Court noted that in 2016, the then Chief Justice of the High Court had granted permission for installing CCTVs strategically in all the judicial departments of the Registry with a view to ensuring safety of judicial proceedings.

Subsequently, on April 19, 2023, the Registrar was given documents detailing the manner of purchase, supply, installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance of CCTVs.

“However, reasons best known to the Registrar (SCMS & ICT), it transpires that no further development has taken place though the matter is having such urgency and seriousness that too inspite of the specific approval given by the Chief Justice for almost about eight months. This is very disturbing state of affairs on the side of the administration of the High Court,” Justice Bhatt underlined.

If such cameras would have been installed in the building, the real culprit would have been immediately identified and could have been booked, the Court added.

Lamenting the fact that no progress has been made to install the cameras even after this incident, the Court ordered,

“This situation cannot be tolerated and continued any further. Therefore, let the Registrar General with him if Registrar (Vigilance) and (Judicial) do the needful in the matter by coordinating with the additional secretary of the Chief Justice to expedite the process of installing CCTVs in each corner of the Registry strategically covering every table and in functional mode and also if required the same be installed in the courtroom.”

This exercise was directed to be completed by January 15, 2024.

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