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SC stays warrants against former Admiral
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 20
The Supreme Court today stayed the arrest warrants against former Naval Chief R.H. Tahiliani, the head of the India chapter of Transparency International, and Bhaskar Rao, Director of Centre for Media Studies, issued by a magistrate in Jammu and Kashmir in a criminal defamation case taking cognizance by him suo motu.

The Judicial Magistrate First Class, Kangan, Mr M.A. Al-Naseer, had issued the arrest warrant against them in a suo motu action, following the publication of the Transparency Internationalís report on corruption in India, particularly in the judiciary, in some newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir recently.

Tahiliani and Rao were charged with committing contempt of court by allegedly maligning the judiciary, their counsel Prashant Bhushan told a Bench of Mr Justice B.N. Agrawal, Mr Justice P.P. Naolekar and Mr Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta, despite they having no role in the publication of the report.

Bhushan said the magistrate had no power to initiate contempt proceedings as it had to be done only by the high court under the J and K Code of Criminal Procedure and the Ranbir Penal Code, applicable in the state.

The magistrate had not even the power to refer the matter to the high court as it had to be referred for follow-up action in a contempt case, by a Sessions Judge only.

In view of the magistrate overstepping his powers, the apex court stayed the warrant and stayed the proceedings in his court till further order.

The apex court, admitted the petition of Tahiliani and Rao, issued notice to the Jammu and Kashmir Government. However, it ordered deletion of the name of the magistrate as respondent from their petition, saying the judicial officer could not be made a party for any judicial order rightly or wrongly issued by him.

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