Pushpaben & ANR V. Narandas Vs.
Badiani & ANR  INSC 75 (29 March 1979)
FAZALALI, SYED MURTAZA FAZALALI, SYED MURTAZA
CITATION: 1979 AIR 1536 1979 SCR (3) 636 1979
SCC (2) 394
Contempt of Courts Act-Section 12(3)-Scope
of-Sentence of imprisonment-When should be awarded in civil contempt.
Respondent No. 1 filed a complaint under s.
420 IPC against the appellants alleging that a loan taken by them from him had
not been repaid. While the complaint was pending before a Magistrate the
parties entered into a compromise under which the appellants undertook to repay
the loan before a stipulated date. The Magistrate accordingly allowed the
parties to compound the case.
When the appellants failed to repay the loan
in accordance with the undertaking given before the Magistrate the respondent
moved the High Court for taking action against the appellants for contempt of
court. On the view that the appellants had committed a willful disobedience of
the undertaking the High Court held that they were guilty of civil contempt and
sentenced them to one month's simple imprisonment.
Allowing the appeal in part,
HELD: 1. The appellants had committed willful
disobedience of the court of the Magistrate by committing serious breach of the
undertaking given to it on the basis of which alone they had been acquitted.
The High Court was, therefore, right in holding that the appellants were guilty
of civil contempt under s. 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act. [638 A]
2. Having regard to the circumstances of the
case the present case falls within the first part of s. 12(3) of the Act and a
sentence of fine alone should have been awarded by the High Court. By enacting
the section the legislature intended that a sentence of fine alone should be
imposed in normal circumstances. Special power is, however, conferred on the
court to pass a sentence of imprisonment if it thought that ends of justice so
required. Therefore, before a court passed a sentence of imprisonment it must
give special reasons for passing such a sentence. [638 G] In the present case
there are no special reasons why the appellants should be sent to jail
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal No. 43 of 1975.
From the Judgment and Order dated 9-1-1973 of
the Bombay High Court in Criminal Application No. 681/72.
V. S. Desai, P. H. Parekh, C. B. Singh, M.
Mudgol, B. L. Verma and J.C. Rajani, for the Appellants.
637 M. N. Shroff for the Respondents.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
FAZAL ALI, J.-This is an appeal under S. 19 of the Contempt of Courts Act
(hereinafter called the Act) against an order of the High Court of Bombay
convicting the appellants for a Civil Contempt and sentencing them to one
month's simple imprisonment. The facts of the case have been fully detailed by
the High Court and it is not necessary for us to repeat the same all over
again. It appears that Respondent No. 1 had given a loan of Rs. 50,000/- to the
appellants on certain conditions. Somehow or other, the loan could not be paid
by the appellants as a result of which Respondent No. 1 filed a complaint under
S. 420 I.P.C.
against the appellants. While the complaint
was pending before the Court of the Magistrate, the parties entered into a
compromise on 22-7-1971 under which the appellants undertook to pay the loan of
Rs. 50,000/- with simple interest @ 12% per annum on or before 21-7-1972. An
application was filed before the Court for allowing the parties to compound the
case and acquit the accused. The Court after hearing the parties, passed the
following order:- "The accused given an undertaking to the court that he
shall repay the sum of Rs. 50,000/- to the complainant on or before 21-7-1972
with interest as mentioned on the reverse. In view of the undertaking, I permit
the compromise and acquit the accused".
It is obvious, therefore, that the Court
permitted the parties to compound the case only because of the undertaking
given by the appellants.
Thereafter, it appears that the undertaking
was violated and the amount of loan was not paid to the Respondent No. 1 at
all. The respondent, therefore, moved the High Court for taking action for
contempt of Court against the appellants as a result of which the present
proceedings were taken against them. The High Court came to the conclusion that
the appellants had committed a wilful disobedience of the undertaking given to
the Court and were, therefore, guilty of civil contempt as defined in S. 2(b)
of the Act. Hence, this appeal before us.
Mr. V. S. Desai appearing in support of the
appeal has raised two short points before us. He has submitted that there is no
doubt that the appellants had violated the undertaking but in the circumstances
it cannot be said that the appellants had committed a willful disobedience of
the orders of the Court. So far as this point is concerned, we fully agree with
the High Court. In the circumstances, the appellants undoubtedly committed
wilful disobedience of the order of the court 638 by committing a serious
breach of the undertaking given to the Court on the basis of which alone, the
appellants had been acquitted. For these reasons, the first contention put
forward by Mr. Desai, is overruled.
It is, then, contended that under S. 12(3),
normally the sentence that should be given to an offender who is found guilty
of civil contempt, is fine and not imprisonment, which should be given only
where the Court is satisfied that ends of justice require the imposition of
such a sentence. In our opinion, this contention of learned counsel for the
appellants is well-founded and must prevail.
Sub-section 3 of S. 12 reads thus :-
"Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, where a person is
found guilty of a civil contempt, the Court, if it considers that a fine will
not meet the ends of justice and that a sentence of imprisonment is necessary
shall, instead of sentencing him to simple imprisonment, direct that he be
detained in a civil prison for such period not exceeding six months as it may
A close and careful interpretation of the
extracted section leaves no room for doubt that the Legislature intended that a
sentence of fine alone should be imposed in normal circumstances. The statute,
however, confers special power on the Court to pass a sentence of imprisonment
if it think that ends of justice so require. Thus before a Court passes the
extreme sentence of imprisonment, it must give special reasons after a proper
application of its mind that a sentence of imprisonment alone is called for in
a particular situation Thus, the sentence of imprisonment is an exception while
sentence of fine is the rule.
Having regard to the peculiar facts and
circumstances of this case, we do not find any special reason why the
appellants should be sent to jail by sentencing them to imprisonment.
Furthermore, respondent No. 1 before us despite service, has not appeared to
support the sentence given by the High Court. Having regard to these
circumstances, therefore, we are satisfied that the present case, squarely
falls in the first part of S. 12(3) and a sentence of fine alone should have
been given by the High Court. We, therefore, allow this appeal to this extent
that the sentence of imprisonment passed by the High Court is set aside and
instead the appellants are sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 1000/- each. In case
of default, 15 days simple imprisonment. Four weeks time to pay the fine.
P.B.R. Appeal allowed in part.