Karnataka High Court has issued over 300 official warnings to people breaking courtroom decorum and registered 20 contempt-of-court cases; a Yeddyurappa loyalist at a hearing was evicted for moustache-twirling, while a reporter was detained in court the entire day for chewing gum

Stepping on the wrong side of the law and having to appear before a stern-faced judge is a difficult enough task for most people. However, be warned when venturing before the judge you may just be unwittingly doing something to attract his ire and even end up landing in jail for contempt of court.

Illustration/Jishu Dev Malakar

Though the list of things not to do at court could vary according to the gravity of the situation or the judge's mood, MiD DAY offers a few of the strict Don'ts to avoid possible eviction and embarrassment.

No twirling
The Karnataka High Court has issued over 300 official warnings to people breaking the decorum of the court this year alone, and registered around 20 contempt-of-court cases. Moustaches sometimes can give off the wrong signals as one concerned Yeddyurappa-loyalist soon found out.

While the court was hearing a case against the former chief minister, the loyalist kept twirling his moustache. To his utter surprise, members of the court vigilance team reprimanded him and asked him to leave the premises or face contempt of court charges.

The bewildered man later discovered through sources that he had offended the judge with his constant moustache twirling.

In another case last week, a reporter was detained at the court for an entire day for chewing gum during a hearing. Last month, a witness got an earful from a judge for walking into court with unzipped pants. The same day a student, who was appearing for a driving offence, was reprimanded for showing up wearing baggy jeans, long hair and pierced ears.

While many in the city are often caught unawares when the judge warns them about their gestures, senior advocates and judges point out that such warnings are often subjective.

Overly casual
"The basic idea is that people should respect the court and all norms that apply for behaviour in public places stand firm even in court. Many judges use their contempt powers and this is subjective to each individual judge. Sometimes, moustache twirling or chewing gum sends out the wrong signals," said Santosh Hegde, retired Supreme Court Judge.

Meanwhile, a student who was recently issued a strict warning by a judge begs to differ. "If I walk in with casual clothes, how can that mean disrespect to the court? I can choose to wear whatever I want. I had to apologize to the judge and the court for wearing a loose shirt and floaters and for being myself. Democracy is taking a beating," said Saggy Bhat.

Accepting the argument, Hegde said, "A good judge is tolerant. People come from a varied strata of society and social backgrounds.

Anything a person might do could look offensive to a judge, but not everyone means disrespect. I would suggest that judges warn them, so that such offences are not repeated."

Abide by norms
However, for many advocates and judges, respecting the court is equivalent to bowing before God.
"In previous times, there were three places where people would remove their footwear before entering - temples, courts and advocates' offices.
Norms and rules have taken a beating today. People do not respect the court and walk in without bothering about the law," said Shankrappa, chairman, Karnataka Advocates' Association.

Missing the point
He added that, practically speaking, when a person does something out of the ordinary, like wearing offensive clothing or speaking inside the court - it can distract the judge and divert his attention.

This could affect the proceedings and if the judge misses a single point, the case could be affected and an innocent person could be penalised.

"The common man should abide by the norms or be ready to face action," he added. The bottomline here is that if one wishes to avoid eviction, make sure the judge is not offended, lest you find yourself being dragged out of court in handcuffs.

Avoid getting evicted from court
10 things that could amount to contempt of court
Using mobile phone
Talking in courtroom
Making signs and gestures
Laughing, smirking or smiling
Not bowing down before judge
Walking in with noisy footwear
Not using court jargon like 'Your Honour'
Arguing with court authorities
Not answering questions
Refusing to submit to security checks
In the past, judges have issued warnings to people with unkempt hair, long nails, baggy pants, offensive tie colours, carrying laptops, excessive jewellery and sporting revealing clothing