C.Elumalai & Ors.
Vs. A.G.L. Irudayaraj & ANR.  INSC 568 (20 March 2009)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CONTEMPT PETITION NO.118 OF 2007 IN
SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (C) NO.19924 OF 2006 C. Elumalai & Ors.
....Petitioners Versus A.G.L. Irudayaraj & Anr. ....
Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT,
violation of the order passed by this Court, the present contempt petition has
been filed. Stand of the petitioners is that by order dated 19.3.2007 in SLP(C
) No. 19924 of 2006, this court had directed that the High Court which was
considering CS No. 597 of 2006 in the original side shall make an effort to
dispose of the suit within a period of six months from the date of receipt of
the order. It was also directed that till completion of the suit the parties
shall not create any third party right. It is the case of the petitioners that
in clear violation of this court's order, third party rights have been created.
Several affidavits have been filed by the respondent No.1-alleged contemnor
No.1. But no response has been filed by the respondent No.2- alleged contemnor
counsel for the petitioners submitted that there has been conscious violation
of the orders passed by this court. The unconditional apologies offered at
various stages are intended to cover up the violation.
Even after filing of
the first affidavit containing alleged unconditional apology, the subsequent
conduct shows continued violation.
counsel for the respondent No.1-contemnor No.1 submitted that the factual
scenario clearly shows that there was never any intention to flout the orders
of this court. Rather, the respondent No.1-contemnor No.1 2 is a victim of
circumstances and therefore the unconditional apology offered should be
is an act of contrition. Unless apology is offered at the earliest opportunity
and in good grace, the apology is shorn of penitence and hence it is liable to
be rejected. If the apology is offered at the time when the contemnor finds
that the court is going to impose punishment it ceases to be an apology and
becomes an act of a cringing coward.
is not a weapon of defence to purge the guilty of their offence nor is it
intended to operate as universal panacea, but it is intended to be evidence of
real contriteness. As was noted in L.D. Jaikwal v. State of U.P. [1984 (3) SCC
"We are sorry to
say we cannot subscribe to the "slap-say sorry- and forget" school of
thought in administration of contempt jurisprudence. Saying "sorry"
does not make the slapper taken the slap smart less upon the said hypocritical
word being uttered. Apology shall not be paper apology and expression of sorrow
should come from the heart and nor from the pen. For it is one thing to
"say" sorry - it is another to "feel" sorry."
above position was highlighted in T.V. Godavarman Thirumalpad v. Ashok Khot and
Another [2006(5) SCC 1]
next question is whether for disobedience of the order passed by this Court,
the respondents/contemners are liable to punishment? In this connection, we may
refer to some of the legal provisions. Article 129 of the Constitution declares
this Court (Supreme Court) to be "a Court of Record having all the powers
of such a Court including the power to punish for the contempt of itself".
Clause (c) of Section 94 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 enacts that in
order to prevent the ends of justice from being defeated, the Court may, commit
the person guilty of disobedience of an order of interim injunction to civil
prison and direct his property be attached and sold. Rule 2A of Order XXXIX as
inserted by the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1976 (Act 104 of 1976)
2A. Consequence of
disobedience or breach of injunction-- (1) In the case of disobedience of any
injunction granted or other order made under Page 3178 rule 1 or rule 2 or
breach of any of the terms on which the injunction was granted or the order
made, the Court granting the injunction or making the order, or any Court to
which the suit or proceeding is transferred, may order the property of the
person guilty of such disobedience or breach to be attached, and may also order
such person to be detained in the civil prison for a term not 4 exceeding
three months, unless in the meantime the Court directs his release.
(2) No attachment
made under this rule shall remain in force for more than one year, at the end
of which time, if the disobedience or breach continues, the property attached
may be sold and out of the proceeds, the Court may award such compensation as
it thinks fit to the injured party and shall pay the balance, if any, to the
party entitled thereto.
Ashok Paper Kamgar Union v. Dharam Godha and Ors. (2003) 11 SCC 1, this Court
had an occasion to consider the concept of `wilful disobedience' of an order of
the Court. It was stated that `wilful' means an act or omission which is done
voluntarily and with the specific intent to do something the law forbids or
with the specific intent to fail to do something the law requires to be done,
that is to say, with bad purpose either to disobey or to disregard the law.
According to the Court, it signifies the act done with evil intent or with a
bad motive for the purpose. It was observed that the act or omission has to be
judged having regard to the facts and circumstances of each case.
Kapildeo Prasad Sah and Ors. v. State of Bihar and Ors. [1999 (7) SCC 569] it
was held that for holding a person to have committed contempt, it must be shown
that there was wilful disobedience of the judgment or order of the Court. But
it was indicated that even negligence and carelessness may amount to contempt.
It was further observed that issuance of notice for contempt of Court and power
to punish are having far reaching consequences, and as such, they should be
resorted to only when a clear case of wilful disobedience of the court's order
is made out. A petitioner who complains breach of Court's order must allege
deliberate or contumacious disobedience of the Court's order and if such
allegation is proved, contempt can be said to have been made out, not
otherwise. The Court noted that power to punish for contempt is intended to
maintain effective legal system. It is exercised to prevent perversion of the
course of justice.
the celebrated decision of Attorney General v. Times Newspaper Ltd. 1974 AC 273
: (1973) 3 All ER 54 : (1973) 3 WLR 298; Lord Diplock stated:
6 "There is an
element of public policy in punishing civil contempt, since the administration
of justice would be undermined if the order of any court of law could be
disregarded with impunity."
Anil Ratan Sarkar and Ors. v. Hirak Ghosh and Ors. (2002 (4) SCC 21) , this
Court held that the Contempt of Courts Act has been introduced in the statute-book
for securing confidence of people in the administration of justice. If an order
passed by a competent Court is clear and unambiguous and not capable of more
than one interpretation, disobedience or breach of such order would amount to
contempt of Court.
There can be no
laxity in such a situation because otherwise the Court orders would become the
subject of mockery. Misunderstanding or own understanding of the Court's order
would not be a permissible defence. It was observed that power to punish a
person for contempt is undoubtedly a powerful weapon in the hands of Judiciary
but that by itself operates as a string of caution and cannot be used unless
the Court is satisfied beyond doubt that the person has deliberately and
intentionally violated the order of the Court. The power under the Act must be
exercised with utmost care and caution and sparingly in the larger interest of
the society and for proper administration of justice delivery system. Mere
disobedience of an order is not enough to hold a person guilty of civil
contempt. The element of willingness is an indispensable requirement to bring
home the charge within the meaning of the Act.
All Bengal Excise Licensees Association v. Raghabendra Singh and Ors. (2007) 11
SCC 374, this Court considered several cases and observed that wilful and
deliberate act of violation of interim order passed by a competent Court would
amount to contempt of Court.
the above decisions, it is clear that punishing a person for contempt of Court
is indeed a drastic step and normally such action should not be taken. At the
same time, however, it is not only the power but the duty of the Court to
uphold and maintain the dignity of Courts and majesty of law which may call for
such extreme step. If for proper administration of justice and to ensure due
compliance with the orders passed by a Court, it is required to take strict
view, it should not hesitate in wielding the potent weapon of contempt.
above position was highlighted in Patel Rajnikant Dhulabhai & Anr. V. Patel
Chandrakant Dhulabhai & Ors. [2008(10) SCALE 349].
consideration of various aspects, we are satisfied that there has been a wilful
and deliberate violation of this Court's order. We, therefore, in exercise of
the court's jurisdiction under Article 129 of the Constitution of India impose
exemplary cost of Rs.2,00,000/- on each of the contemnors to be deposited to
the registry of the High Court within a period of eight weeks. On deposit being
made, the amount shall be transferred to the National Legal Services Authority.
In case of non payment, the contemnors shall undergo simple imprisonment for
three months each. Any third party right created after order dated 19.3.2007 in
SLP No. 19924 of 2006 is of no consequence and stands set aside.
(Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT)