AdvocateKhoj
Login : Advocate | Client
Home Post Your Case My Account Law College Law Library
    

Supreme Court Judgments


Latest Supreme Court of India Judgments 2019

Subscribe

RSS Feed img




Bharat Coklng Coal Limited Vs. State of Bihar & Ors [1987] INSC 324 (10 November 1987)

SEN, A.P. (J) SEN, A.P. (J) RAY, B.C. (J)

CITATION: 1988 AIR 127 1988 SCR (1) 869 1987 SCC Supl. 394 JT 1987 (4) 403 1987 SCALE (2)1015

ACT:

The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971: Section 2-order for maintenance of status quo as in the High Court-Passed by Supreme Court-Suppression of the order from the High Court and obtaining of another order-Whether amounts to contempt- Scope and effect of status quo order.

Words & Phrases: 'Status quo'- Meaning of.

HEADNOTE:

% It was alleged, in the petition for initiating proceedings for contempt, that despite the fact that this Court passed an order on 19.12.86 directing maintenance of 'status quo as in the High Court' in the presence of the counsel for respondent No. 4 on December 22, 1986 respondent No. 4 and his son filed a miscellaneous petition before the High Court, deliberately and wilfully suppressing from it the fact that this Court had directed maintenance of status quo, and obtained an order dated January 3, 1987 in their favour, and had thus wilfully and flagrantly disobeyed and violated the status quo order of this Court.

This Court on September 23, 1987 vacated the aforesaid order of the High Court and restrained respondent No. 4 and his son and their agents and servants from lifting sludge/slurry from the lands in question. This Court was of the view that there was no contempt.

Giving reasons for its decision, ^

HELD: The expression 'status quo' is undoubtedly a term of ambiguity and at times gives rise to doubt and difficulty. According to the ordinary legal connotation the term implies existing state of things at any given point of time. The qualifying words 'as in the High Court' clearly limit the scope and effect of the status quo order. [872F-G] In the present case, the High Court determined only one question, namely, that slurry was not coal or mineral. The impugned judgment does not adjudicate upon the rights of the parties. It is, therefore, 870 obvious that status quo as in the High Court cannot mean anything else except status quo as existing when the matter was pending in the High Court before the judgment was delivered. Both the parties understood the scope and effect of the status quo order as meaning the state of things existing while the writ petition was still pending i.e. till the delivery of the judgment by the High Court. [872G-H; 873A-B] No case for contempt is made out on the plain terms of the status quo order. The parties were relegated back to the position that obtained while the writ petition was pending.

They were, therefore, subject to the order passed by the High Court dated January 15, 1985. [873C-D] The conduct of respondent No. 4 for having approached the High Court and obtained the impugned order by suppressing the fact that this Court had passed the status quo order, is highly deprecated. The proper course for him was to have approached this Court for clarification, if he had any doubt as to the meaning and effect of the status quo order. [873C]

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Misc. Petition No. 4673 of 1987. (In C.A. No. 452 1 of 1986).

From the Judgment and order dated 20.12.1985 of the Patna High Court in C.W.J.C. No. 1133 of 1984.

L.N. Sinha and M.L. Verma for the Petitioner. S.N. Kacker, S.B. Upadhyay, M.M. Kashyap and Smt. Asha Upadhyay for the Respondents.

The following order of the Court was delivered: O R D E R This is an application made by the appellant for initiating proceedings for contempt against respondent no. 4 Ram Nath Singh and his son Vijendra Singh. It is alleged that despite the fact that this Court had on 19th December 1986 after hearing learned counsel for the parties granted special leave and also passed an order directing maintenance of status quo as in the High Court in the presence of learned counsel for respondent no. 4, three days after i.e. On 22nd December, 1986 respondent no. 4 Ram Nath Singh and his son Vijendra Singh filed a criminal miscellaneous petition no. 4841/86 (R) 871 before the Ranchi Bench of the Patna High Court alleging inter alia that respondent no. 4 had the right to collect slurry, deliberately and willfully suppressed from the High Court the fact that this Court had directed maintenance of status quo, and thereby obtained an order from the High Court dated 3rd January, 1987 in the said proceedings by which respondent no. 4 was allowed to transport briquettes from the area in question i.e. Iands covered by the notification issued under s. 9 of the Coal bearing Areas (Acquisition & Development) Act, 1957 including the disputed plot no. 370, and bad thus wilfully and flagrantly disobeyed and violated the status quo order of this Court.

After hearing learned counsel for the parties at quite some length, we were satisfied that the High Court was not justified in passing the impugned order. We accordingly by order dated 23rd September, 1987 vacated the aforesaid order of the High Court dated 3rd January, 1987 and also allowed the application made by the appellant for grant of a prohibitory order and restrained respondent no. 4 Ram Nath Singh and his son Vijendra Singh and their agents and servants from lifting sludge/slurry from the lands covered by the notification under s. 9 of the Act, in terms of the registered indenture of lease dated October 20, 1984 executed by the State Government in favour of respondent no.

4 and further directed that all operations carried on by them shall stop forthwith. There was a further direction made with regard to the withdrawal of the amounts deposited by respondent no. 4 and his son towards the price of slurry collected by them in pursuance of the order passed by the High Court dated l5th January, 1985 on furnishing bank guarantee. As the conclusion of the hearing we were inclined to the view that there was no contempt. The reasons there for follow.

The question whether respondent no. 4 Ram Nath Singh and his son Vijendra Singh are guilty of contumacious and willful disregard of this Court's order must depend on the precise meaning of the words `status quo as in the High Court'. There is not much of a controversy as to the scope and effect of the status quo order passed by this Court.

Shri L.N. Sinha, learned counsel appearing for the appellant submitted that the words 'status quo as in the High Court' mean status quo as prevailing between the parties when the matter was pending in the High Court and not after the High Court had passed the impugned judgment and disposed of the writ petition. The learned counsel contends that same meaning must be given to these words as otherwise, the application for grant of prohibitory order would be infructuous and the order passed by this Court meaningless.

He placed emphasis on the 872 word 'in' in the collocation of the words 'status quo as in the High Court' to define the scope and effect of the status quo order. According to him, the word 'in' must mean status quo while the matter was in the High Court; it was in seisin of the High Court till the moment before the delivery of the final judgment. Once the judgment had been delivered, the matter came to an end in the High Court. In substance, 13 the contention is that the status quo as prevailing between the parties when the matter was pending in the High Court had to be maintained.

In reply Shri Kacker, learned counsel for respondent no. 4 Ram Nath Singh and his son Vijendra Singh submitted that the words 'status quo as in the High Court' must be interpreted to mean that the parties were relegated back to the position that obtained between them when the writ petition was still pending. Upon that basis he submitted that the contemnors were governed by the terms of the earlier order passed by the High Court dated 15th January, 1985 permitting them to collect sludge/slurry from public land. It is urged that the disputed plot no. 370 is such public land from which respondent no. 4 in terms of the registered indenture of lease dated October 20, 1984 executed by the State Government in his favour, was entitled to remove sludge/slurry from the lands covered by the lease.

The learned counsel points out that although respondent no.

4 had been restrained by the High Court by its earlier order dated 19th October, 1984 from removing sludge/slurry from the disputed plot of land, it had by the subsequent order dated 15th January, 1985 permitted him to collect sludge/slurry on certain conditions. One of the conditions was that respondent no. 4 was required to deposit Rs. 10000 in the High Court and that had been done. He also drew our attention to cl.(B) of that order which directed respondent no. 4 to deposit the price of slurry in court along with monthly returns and it is said that several lakhs of rupees are in deposit in the High Court on that account.

The expression 'status quo' is undoubtedly a term of ambiguity and at times gives rise to doubt and difficulty.

According to the ordinary legal connotation, the term 'status quo' implies the existing state of things at any given point of time. The qualifying words 'as in the High Court' clearly limit the scope and effect of the status quo order. In the present case, the High Court determined only one question, namely, that slurry was not coal or mineral.

It refrained from entering into the question of right or title of the parties on the ground that it involved investigation into disputed questions of facts. Therefore, apart from the abstract question that slurry was not coal or mineral, the impugned judgment does not adjudicate upon the rights of the 873 parties. Viewed from that angle, it is obvious that status quo as in the High Court cannot mean anything else except status quo as existing when the matter was pending in the High Court before the judgment was delivered. Both the parties understood the scope and effect of the status quo order as meaning the state of things existing while the writ petition was still pending i.e. till the delivery of the judgment by the High Court. Respondent no. 4 moved the High Court in Crl. M.P. No. 4841/86 (R) without impleading the appellant herein and obtained the impugned order from the High Court dated 3rd January 1987 which we have vacated. The proper course for respondent no. 4 to have adopted was to have approached this Court to seek clarification, if he had any doubt as to the meaning and effect of the status quo order. We highly deprecate the conduct of respondent no. 4 for having approached the High Court and obtained the impugned order by suppressing the fact that this Court had passed the status quo order. Even so, strictly speaking, no case for contempt is made out on the plain terms of the status quo order. The parties were relegated back to the position that obtained while the writ petition was pending.

They were therefore subject to the order passed by the High Court dated 15th January, 1985. No other conclusion is possible looking to the terms of the status quo order.

We must add that there is no merit in the contention that the disputed plot no. 370 was public land and the State Government was entitled to grant a lease for removal and collection of sludge/slurry despite the notification issued under s. 9 of the Act. It is quite clear upon the terms of the notification issued that the Central Government has made the requisite declaration under s. 9(1) of the Act for acquisition of the lands measuring 778.45 acres as specified in Schedule 'A' and it specifically includes the disputed plot no. 370 in Village Sudamdih. The appellant in paragraph 11 of the application for contempt has averred that on the publication in the official gazette of such declaration by the Central Government under s. 9(1) of the Act, the aforesaid lands vast absolutely in it free from all encumbrances. The aforesaid declaration by the Central Government under s. 9(1) further specifies as enjoined by cl.(b) of sub-s(2) thereof that the acquisition of the right in or over lands measuring 778.45 acres describe in Schedule 'A' also carries with it the right to mine, quarry, bore, dig and search for, win, work and carry away minerals in the lands. It is pertinent to observe that respondent no. 4 Ram Nath Singh and his son Vijendra Singh have not in the counter-affidavit denied the aforesaid averment made in paragraph 11 except to say that they are a matter of record.

It is plain upon the terms that the area in question i.e.

plot 874 no. 370 has been acquired under s. 9(1) of the Act together with the right to mine, quarry, bore, dig and search for, win, work and carry away the minerals thereon. lt is idle to contend that the disputed plot no. 370 was open land. It is nothing but an afterthought and is ill-conceived.

It is unfortunate that the appellant rested itself content by obtaining the status quo order in terms in which it was passed. It should instead have for safeguarding its interests insisted upon a prohibitory order. In the meanwhile, we are informed that respondent no. 4 Ram Nath Singh and his son Vijendra Singh have been taking advantage of the qualified status quo order by removing sludge/slurry or briguettes worth about Rs.50,000 per day. The appellant is at liberty to take recourse to such legal remedy as is available for the protection of its rights. We have tried to secure its interests to some extent by permitting withdrawal of the moneys deposited by respondent no. 4 Ram Nath Singh and his son Vijendra Singh in the High Court on furnishing bank guarantee.

C.M.P. is disposed of accordingly.

 Back


 



Client Area | Advocate Area | Blogs | About Us | User Agreement | Privacy Policy | Advertise | Media Coverage | Contact Us | Site Map
powered by nubia  |  driven by neosys