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|September 7, 2000||
Mamta in a tight spot!
The Mumbai High Court today quashed a lower court order imposing a fine of Rs 15,000 on film actress Mamta Kulkarni while cancelling a non-bailable warrant issued against her in a case of alleged obscenity.
Justice G D Patil and R M Lodha ruled that Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate K H Holambe Patil had no powers to impose such a heavy penalty on her.
Disposing off a petition filed by the aggrieved actress, the judges directed the magistrate to refund the fine imposed on the actress, who was acquitted of the charge of obscenity for posing semi-nude on a magazine cover.
They also ordered the High Court registrar to place the petition before the Chief Justice for administrative action against the magistrate, who, the actress complained, had passed remarks against her in an open court.
Mamta had filed a petition challenging the jurisdiction of the magistrate to try her on the grounds that she had already been convicted for the same offence earlier. She also challenged the imposition of fine on her on July 19 and made certain averments on the conduct of the magistrate.
On a high court directive, the magistrate heard Mamta's plea and discharged her from the case since she had already been convicted for the same offence by another court.
However, the levy of penalty and the magistrate's remarks against Mamta are issues pending before the High Court.
Mamta's counsel, Ramrao Adik and Peter Lobo, argued that section 29 of Cr PC empowered a magistrate to levy a maximum fine of Rs 5000, while convicting a person.
Additional Advocate General P Janardhan also conceded that under Cr PC, a magistrate had no powers to levy a fine of more than Rs 5000 while convicting an accused. In this case, he said, the case had not reached the stage of conviction. The penalty was not justified and was without any legal sanction, he said.
Mamta then alleged that despite tendering an apology for absenting herself from court, the magistrate commented on her wearing a burkha in the court, when her family name was Kulkarni and she was a Hindu.
She had replied that she had put on the burkha to avoid mediapersons and members of the public who had gathered outside the court to see her. On entering the court, however, she removed the veil covering her face, she said.
Mamta alleged that the magistrate insulted her in court and even rebuked her for not appearing before the police after she was summoned. The magistrate also allegedly threatened to keep her in custody till the end of the case or even register another offence against her for disobeying the police and trying to evade arrest, Mamta alleged in her petition.
The actress said she had begged the magistrate to excuse her and tendered an unconditional apology to the court. However, according to Mamta, he is said to have retorted, "There were many beggars on the street near Gateway of India and alms were given to deserving beggars only."
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