The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court today exempted writer-activist Arundhati Roy from personal appearance in the contempt of court proceedings against her.
Roy was present in the court today. The judges adjourned the hearing for four weeks as the matter is also before the Supreme Court.
The bench of Justices Bhushan Gavai and P N Deshmukh said prima facie it did not agree with the contention of her lawyer that it was improper for the court to take suo moto (on its own) notice of the contempt case over an article penned by her.
Senior lawyer K H Deshpande, Roy's lawyer, said a single judge cannot initiate contempt proceedings and it should have been referred to the bench headed by the Chief Justice.
He also said that opinion of the Advocate General was not sought, as is the procedure while initiating contempt proceedings.
But as the court was not inclined to agree, Deshpande stated that the apex court was also seized of the matter and the hearing may be adjourned.
The court granted Roy exemption from personal appearance following her undertaking that she will appear when required.
The Supreme Court had last week refused to stay the contempt notice issued by Justice Arun Chaudhari of the High Court for "scurrilous attack and nasty language used against the judiciary" in Roy's article questioning the arrest of alleged Naxal supporter G N Saibaba.
Earlier this morning, the bench of Justices Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Vinay Deshpande of the High Court recused itself, so the case was assigned to another bench.
On December 23 last year, Justice Chaudhari had rejected the bail application of G N Saibaba, who is wheel-chair bound, and directed him to surrender before the police following his stay in the hospital.
The judge took exception to an article written by Roy, saying that "prima facie, it was (written) with a malafide motive to interfere in the administration of justice."
Advocate Kishor Lambat and six others, through their lawyer Shreerang Bhandarkar, have also moved the HC seeking action against Roy over her statements.
They have also cited media reports of a press meet organised by the `Committee for the Defence and Release of Dr G N Saibaba' and remarks of various speakers at the meet, including senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, criticising the court's refusal of bail.