The Gujarat High Court on Thursday sternly rebuked Vadodara Municipal Commissioner Vinod Rao for sending a sitting judge a WhatsApp message about a case and sought an unconditional apology in the form of an affidavit.
The case relates to a petition moved by 10 shopowners at a commercial complex ‘Pathik Bhawan’ in Vadodara city who had challenged the proposed demolition by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation. Hearings in the plea have been continuing before the single judge bench of Justice R.H. Shukla since January.
The court had first issued a stay order on the demolition till January 10 and had subsequently extended it till Thursday when the matter was to come up for hearing.
A few days ago, Rao had sent a WhatsApp message directly to Justice Shukla in relation to the case which had infuriated the judge.
When Rao appeared in person, following the high court’s order on Thursday, Justice Shukla reprimanded him: “Do you know that no one is supposed to approach the judge directly or indirectly when his/her petition is pending before the court. Being an IAS officer are you unaware about the judiciary’s functioning?
“Don’t you know your jurisdiction? How dare you send a direct WhatsApp message to a judge? Being a government officer, stop behaving like dictator. If you don’t understand your duty, the court can initiate legal action against you.”
“Your irresponsible behaviour and attempt to hurt the pride of the judiciary is a fit case to initiate contempt of court proceedings against you,” the judge added.
The IAS official immediately tendered an apology before the court, which issued a written order directing him to submit an affidavit in apology and also include his text message in it. He was asked to remain present in the court on Monday with the affidavit.
Rao declined comments to media persons trying to contact him.