T. N. Godavarman
Thirumulpad Through The Amicus Curiae Vs. Ashok Khot and Anr  Insc 294 (10 May 2006)
Arijit Pasayat & S.H. Kapadia
PETITION (C) NO. 83 of 2005 IN WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 202 of 1995 ARIJIT
"King is under no man, but under God and the law"- was the reply of
the Chief Justice of England, Sir Edward Coke when James-I once declared
"Then I am to be under the law. It is treason to affirm it"-so wrote
Henry Bracton who was a Judge of the King's Bench.
words of Bracton in his treatise in Latin "quod Rex non debat esse sub homine,
sed sub Deo et Lege" (That the King should not be under man, but under God
and the law) were quoted time and time again when the Stuart Kings claimed to
rule by divine right. We would like to quote and requote those words of Sir
Edward Coke even at the threshold.
democratic polity under the Constitution based on the concept of 'Rule of law'
which we have adopted and given to ourselves and which serves as an aorta in
the anatomy of our democratic system. THE LAW IS SUPREME.
whether individually or collectively is unquestionably under the supremacy of
law. Whoever he may be, however high he is, he is under the law. No matter how
powerful he is and how rich he may be.
of this Court's order strikes at the very root of the rule of law on which the
judicial system rests. The rule of law is the foundation of a democratic
society. Judiciary is the guardian of the rule of law. Hence, it is not only
the third pillar but also the central pillar of the democratic State. If the
judiciary is to perform its duties and functions effectively and remain true to
the spirit with which they are sacredly entrusted to it, the dignity and
authority of the Courts have to be respected and protected at all costs.
Otherwise, the very corner stone of our constitutional scheme will give way and
with it will disappear the rule of law and the civilized life in the society.
That is why it is imperative and invariable that Court's orders are to be
followed and complied with.
case at hand involves two contemnors. Shri Ashok Khot (hereinafter described as
'contemnor No.1') was the Principal Secretary, Department of Forest, Government
of Maharashtra and Shri Swarup Singh Naik (hereinafter described as 'contemnor
No.2') was the Minister, Incharge of Department of Forest at the relevant point
basis of submissions made by learned Amicus Curiae, proceedings were initiated
against them. It was highlighted by learned Amicus Curiae that the respondents
have acted in brazen defiance of the orders of this Court and their conduct
constitutes the contempt by way of
obedience of directions issued by this Court,
the manner in
which contemnors have conducted themselves clearly tends to lower the authority
of this Court and obstructs the administration of justice
as their conduct
falls both under the definition of Civil contempt, as well as seeing dimensions
of the matters, under criminal contempt.
pointed out by learned Amicus Curiae that this Court by order dated 4.3.1997
directed the closure of all un- licensed saw mills, veneer and plywood
industries. Further by order dated 30.10.2002 it was directed that no State
Government would permit the opening of any saw mill, veneer and plywood
industry without the prior permission of the Central Empowered Committee (in
short the 'CEC'). The State of Maharashtra by
I.A.414 sought permission to permit the re- opening of saw mills/veneer and
plywood industries inter alia dependent on imported timber; which permission
was declined by this Court's order dated 14th July, 2003. On enquiries made by CEC as well
as learned Amicus Curiae the State Government stated that the orders of this
Court will be complied with and six mills in question i.e.
Veneer Products Ltd.
Plywood Industries Ltd.
Western Plywood Industries Ltd.
M/s Pagoda Woods
M/s Woodmac (Bombay) Pvt. Ltd.
Products Pvt. Ltd. were actually closed.
orders dated 7th April,
2004 and 29th May, 2004 the State of Maharashtra granted permission to aforesaid six
units to operate in the State. Such permissions were granted on the basis of
decisions taken by the contemnors 1 and 2 deliberately and consciously though fully
aware of the orders of this Court with the sole motive of favouring those units
and to evade enforcement of the orders of this Court. It was pointed out that
as a result of such orders, the units have been permitted to operate in direct
contravention of the orders of this Court.
responses were filed by contemnors 1 and 2 but on consideration thereof this
Court was of the view that in fact contempt of this Court's order has been
committed and, therefore, by order dated 3.2.2006 charges were framed as
this Court by its order dated 4.3.1997 directed the closure of all un-licensed
saws mills, veneer and plywood industries, and further by its order of 30th
October, 2002, directed that no State Government would permit the opening of
any saw mills, veneer and plywood industries, without the prior permission of
the Central Empowered Committee and whereas the State of Maharashtra, through
its Interlocutory Application NO.414 sought permission to permit the reopening
of the saw mills/veneer and plywood industries inter alia dependent on imported
timber, which permission was declined by rejection of their application by this
Court on 14th July, 2003.
in response to enquiries made by the Central Powered Committee as well as the
Amicus Curiae, the State Government assured that the orders of this Court will
be complied with and six mills in question i.e.
Veneer Products Ltd.
Plywood Industries Ltd.
Western Plywood Industries Ltd.
M/s Pagoda Woods
M/s Woodmac (Bombay) Pvt. Ltd.
Products Pvt. Ltd. were actually closed.
whereas vide orders dated 7th April, 2004 and 29th May, 2004 the State of Maharashtra
granted permission to aforesaid six units to operate in the State.
whereas from the affidavit filed and the records produced it is apparent that
these permissions were granted on the basis of decision taken by Respondent
Nos. 1 and 2 deliberately and consciously and after being aware of the orders
of the Court with the sole motive to favour these units and to evade
enforcement of the orders of this Court.
whereas as the result of these orders the mills have been permitted to operate
in direct contravention of the orders of this Court.
whereas a hand-written Marathi note has been added in the original record on Ist
February, 2005 by respondent NO.1 which amounts to interpolation of the record.
whereas the minutes, Annexure-D from pages 47 to 57 filed by respondent No.2
show addition in the manner noticed in the order dated 27th January, 2006.
whereas by their conduct respondent Nos. 1 and 2 have not only violated the
direction to the State to ensure that unlicensed saw mills/veneer and plywood
industries are not allowed to operate, but have also attempted to lower the
authority of the Court by granting permission which act clearly was in
derogation of the authority exercised by the Court in exercise of its
constitutional powers over the officers and employees of the State Government.
whereas respondents 1 and 2 have interpolated the record in the manner above
whereas by virtue of the aforesaid acts, the respondents are guilty of civil
and/or criminal contempt of Court by having wilfully dis-obeyed the orders of
the Court as well as having acted in a manner that attempt to lower the
authority of this Court as well as interferes in the administration of justice
by preventing enforcement of directions issued by the Court which constitutes a
criminal contempt." Affidavits in relation to the charges have been filed
by contemnors. Their stand in essence is as follows:
stated that the opinion given by him was based on the decision taken by the
High Powered Committee (in short 'H.P.C.') on 28.1.2004. He has further stated that
if he has made a mistake in his bona fide interpretation of the orders of this
Court there was no mens rea involved and he tenders his unconditional apology.
He has stated that there is no question of any disobedience, much less wilful
disobedience of the orders passed by this Court so as to amount the contempt of
this Court's order. It is stated that the State Government was of the opinion
that units running exclusively on slicer or peeler machines do not require a licence
and, therefore, cannot be termed as un-licensed units even after the order of
this Court dated 4.3.1997. The units in question were not closed. Subsequently,
the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court by order dated 10th August, 1998
passed in Writ petition 3795 of 1995 (known as 'Kitply case') directed that
even the slicing and peeling machines being run along with licensed saw mills
would require separate license.
result of this order, the said units were also closed.
writ petitions were filed by the aggrieved units and the State decided to take
a policy decision in the matter.
on 15.5.2001 the State Government constituted H.P.C. to take a policy decision
in respect of such peeler and slicer units. The units in question applied to
the State Government for permission to re-commence their operation.
stand was that they were not using any saw mills but only peeler and slicer
machines and were operating on the basis of "No Objection
Certificates" issued by the Forest Department and the licenses issued by
the Industries Department. On receipt of the representation, a meeting was held
by contemnor No.2 which was attended by Principal Conservator of Forest, the Conservator of Forest, the
Deputy Secretary of Forest Department, one Shri Tripathi whose role in the
present matter is of considerable importance.
No.1 was not present in the meeting but his stand was that the contemnor No.2
who is the Minister gave direction as per the discussion to submit a note for
Deputy Secretary of the Department Sri Tripathi in his note clearly stated that
the requests should not be accepted and express orders from this Court and the
Bombay High Court were necessary for the purpose. Contemnor No.1 expressed
otherwise and in view of the alleged decision of the H.P.C. and the stand of
the State Government before the Courts suggested that the units should be
permitted to operate. The contemnor No.2 being the final authority i.e. the
Minister-in-charge of the Forest Department accepted his stand. It was further
pointed out that the units were to operate exclusively using imported wood.
Therefore, in essence, his stand is that there is no wilful dis-regard of this
Court's orders and no contempt was committed. So far as the charge relating to
interpolation of records is concerned, he has stated that he has not
interpolated any records of this Court. On the contrary, the handwritten note
was made by him on 1.2.2005 during the course of hearing before CEC. By a bona
fide mistake, the note was made in the official file and not on a separate
piece of paper. He, therefore, has stated that there was no intention of
manipulation or interpolation of the official records.
stand of contemnor No.2 is that he has acted bona fide without any mens rea. He
has also tendered his unconditional apology. It is pointed out that he is
qualified only upto secondary school level and belongs to Scheduled Tribe
category and had represented the Nandurbar Lok Sabha Constituency as a Member
of Parliament, was a member of the Legislative Council nominated by the
Government of Maharashtra as well as a member of the State Assembly from Nawapur
Assembly. He is presently one of the senior-most members of the Maharashtra
Legislative Assembly and a member of the Cabinet being Minister of Transport,
the Minister of Forest and Environment between 19.10.1999
and 31.10.2004. The expert H.P.C. was constituted. The view expressed by it was
at variance with the view of the State Government. Though he was not aware of
the details of the orders he was conscious of the fact that giving the growing
technicalities of the law involved in the day to day functioning of the
Ministry in contrast to his background and the level of his educational
qualification, it was not feasible for him to arrive at an appropriate decision
unilaterally without being assisted by responsible officers of the Government.
in line what was decided by the H.P.C. which was constituted for a specific
purpose and comprised of top bureaucrats and other important limbs of the
Government and public personalities, the decisions arrived at by them would be
entitled to great respect. The H.P.C. took the decision on 28.1.2004, and
taking note of various relevant factors indicated in the representations made
on or about 25.3.2004 passed the order. It is now alleged that the same
amounted to violation of this Court's orders. He had concurred with the views
expressed by contemnor No.1 and it was also clarified that the unitholders have
closed the units after the decisions rendered by this Court as well as by the
Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench. He in his capacity as Minister-in-Charge
endorsed the view of the senior most bureaucrat/officer of the Department of
Forest and Revenue, Government of Maharashtra and accepted the proposal which
was forwarded to him. There is no mens rea or personal element in the alleged
contumacy. So far as the allegations that he had deliberately given false
explanation about the view of H.P.C., it was submitted that due to wrong typing
of the pages and the preparation of draft by learned counsel the mistake has
occurred and there is deliberateness involved.
are several factors which completely nullify the alleged claim of bona fides
made by the contemnors. Firstly, the note made by the Deputy Secretary, Shri Tripathi
is of great relevance in showing as to how the stand taken by contemnor No.1 is
clearly false and the claim of acting bona fide is falsified. The note reads as
directed by Pr. Secretary (F) on 2.4.2004
In the said
filed, four applications, which have been submitted by the Oriental Veneer
products Ltd. Konark Plywood Product Ltd, Pagoda Woods Private Ltd, Great
Western Wood Private Ltd, are being dealt with. The applicants have requested
to grant the licences for running their units.
behind these cases are as:
In the State
veneer and plywood units can be placed into three categories, first, units
which are running along with saw mills, licences, second which are running
exclusive, by using slicer and peeler machines and third which are running
along with unlicensed saw mills.
The issue of
veneer and plywood units came first time in the matter of T.N. Godaverman v.
Union of India (W.P. No.171/96, 202/95) before Supreme Court. Hon'ble Supreme
Court directed to the State Government to file affidavit before the Court,
regarding the status of saw mills, veneer & plywood units in the State. The
affidavit was filed by State Government before the Supreme Court treating
veneer & plywood industries units as composite units along with saw mills.
According to the affidavit, which implied, that veneer & plywood industries
if running along with license saw mills may be treated as licensed unit and if
running, without unlicensed saw mills may be treated as unlicensed.
4.3.1997 Hon'ble Supreme Court passed order as under:
unlicensed saw mills, veneer and plywood industries in the State of Maharashtra
and State of U.P. are to be closed forthwith and the State Government would not
remove or relax the condition for grant of permission/licence for the opening
of any such saw mills, veneer and plywood industries and it shall also not
grant any fresh permission/licence for this purpose.
Government approached the apex Court by way of filing I.A.No.414 of January 99
with request to allow State Government to grant licences to existing unlicensed
ply wood and veneer industries which require saw milling activities but have
industrial licences and also allow the State Government to issue licences to
saw mill and veneer/plywood industries which intend to operate on imported
timber from outside the country. The matter came before apex court for final
hearing on 14.7.2003. The Hon'ble Supreme Court rejected the request made by
State Government and disposed off the I.A.NO.414 along with other I.As.
After the order
of Hon'ble Supreme Court on 4.3.1997, the unlicensed saw mills in these
plywood/veneer industries were closed, no other machinery in these industries
was closed because of the interpretation of the Bombay Forest Rule 1942 was
that only sawing machine i.e. band saw/horizontal saw/circular saw need licence.
However, in the W.P. No.3795/95, Kit Ply case Hon'ble Bombay High Court Bench
at Nagpur on 10.8.1998 made it clear that petitioner (i.e. Kitply's owner) do
not entitle to operate any machinery or saw mills for cutting, slicing and/or
peeling the timber without licence, as contemplated under rule 23(i)(ii) of
Bombay Transit Forest Product Rule, 1960 (Vidarbh region, Saurashtra & Kutch
After this judgement
Mumbai High Court Bench Nagpur in Kitply's case the Forest Department issued
instructions to the field officer to close the slicing and peeling machinery.
This resulted in closure of wood conversion machinery i.e. slicer & peelers
machine in the industries. Therefore, these industries filed W.Ps. in the
Mumbai High Court Nagpur Bench. The gist of their main argument was as follows:
"Forest department never demanded licence
to run veneer & plywood machinery therefore they were not getting licence
from Forest Department to operate these units. Hence at this stage they cannot
be compelled for licence to operate these units." The Badar (Special Counsel Forest) admitted before the Court that Government is taking policy
decision in this case.
This issue came
before the High Powered Committee comprised under C.S. on 2.6.2001 and
13.6.2001. In the meeting on the issue of licensing of veneer and plywood
industries the Committee took following decision:
Committee has decided that at this stage it will not be proper to make any
licensing policy regarding veneer and plywood industry. However, industry
department may be directed not to issue any new licence for establishment of
veneer and plywood units."
This decision of
the Committee, after getting the approval of State Government submitted in the
High Court in W.P. NO.3795/95, 1315/2001, 3731/78. In the hearing of these W.Ps.
the Hon'ble Court observed that:
leads nowhere, as to the existing position, whether today a licence is required
to the complete veneer unit or whether it is required only where a saw mill
unit is in existence? Why the seal should not be open. Why these industries
should not be allowed to run. The decision is vague it only says for future
that Forest Department is not going to grant any licence and decision would
have been taken by industry department."
Since the issue
to giving the licences to the veneer & plywood industries was not decided
then this matter was put up further before High Powered Committee on 28th January, 2004. The H.P.C. on this issue took
be given to those veneer and plywood Industries which were in operation prior
The veneer and
plywood industries running only on slicer and peeler machine are required to
get the licence.
peeling machine cannot be treated as composite unit along with saw mills.
The Hon'ble High
Court may be apprised according to the decision of State Government.
On the basis of
decision taken by H.P.C. the matter may be placed before the Hon'ble Court, by way of filing affidavit, after
taking the approval from State Government. This is under consideration and
shortly affidavit shall be filed before the Hon'ble Court.
In view of
above, in my opinion, the matters of the applicants may be considered only
after getting permission from the State Government and the Hon'ble Courts.
for information and approval.
5.4.2004 Pr.Secretary(F)" After referring to the history behind the cases,
the orders passed by this Court on 4.3.1997 and 14.7.2003, the order dated
10.8.1998 passed by the Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench, the opinion of the
H.P.C., the Deputy Secretary categorically indicated his stand as follows:
the basis of decision taken by H.P.C. the matter may be placed before the Hon'ble Court by way of filing affidavit, after
taking the approval from State Government. This is under consideration and
shortly affidavit shall be filed before the Hon'ble Court.
view of the above, in my opinion, the matter of the applicants may be
considered only after getting permission from the State government and the Hon'ble
for information and approval." Contemnor No.1 Shri Ashok Khot on 5.4.2004
completely ignored the view expressed by the Deputy Secretary, and on a clear
and what appears to be a deliberate mis-reading of the H.P.C.'s recommendations
expressed the view that there seems to be no objection in using imported timber
for plywood/veneer/flash door/black board etc. since the permission given by
the Conservator of Forest was prior to the orders of this Court i.e. 20.2.1997
and 21.2.1997 and these units can be made operational subject to the decisions
of the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court and of this Court.
permission shall be at the responsibility of unit holders and the unit holders
shall close the units if the decisions of the Bombay High Court and this Court
are contrary to the stand put forward by the Maharashtra State. Contemnor No.1 noted as follows:
Proposal accepted. Permission be granted to start." With reference to the
orders passed by contemnors 1 and 2 several units in other States like U.P.
started making demands for similar permissions. When this came to the notice of
the CEC and learned Amicus Curiae, they intimated the State Government about
the violation of the orders. The view of the CEC was contested by the State of Maharashtra.
comes into picture the manipulation in the official records. It has been
accepted by contemnor No.1 that on 1.2.2005 he had made a note in Marathi in
the official file.
rest of the note sheets is in English. The stand that he wanted to highlight
certain aspects during the hearing is clearly contrary to the materials on
record. He claims to have made the entry on 1.2.2005. But materials clearly
establish that by that time the file was in the possession of CEC. Further, the
High Powered Committee in its recommendations on 21.8.2004 had never finally
decided in the manner projected by contemnor No.1. The file indicates something
very interesting. Just before the note by contemnor No.1 recommending the grant
of permission to saw mills which is a typed note running into several pages
there is a hand-written note undated which suggested that there were different
points of view on the subject and an opinion of counsel who was the then
Advocate General presently the learned Solicitor General was also available.
The obvious purport of this note was to show that there were also others who
did not share the view of the subordinate officer who had suggested that the
proposal to re-open the mills was to be rejected.
there was no comment of CEC on this note, learned Amicus Curiae made an enquiry
from CEC to find out whether the note had missed the attention of members of
CEC and whether they had enquired into the correctness of what was stated in
the note. The Member Secretary of the CEC asserted that he did not recollect
having seen any such note and therefore made enquiries from the Chief
of the Chief Secretary is also very significant. The Chief Secretary handed
over a set of zeroxed pages of the file which he had returned before handing
over the files to the CEC and they did not carry any such note. The object of
introducing this note is very clear i.e. to show that his view was a possible
view as there were different view points on the subject. In his reply,
contemnor No.1 had stated that the files were kept in the custody of the Joint
Secretary and were returned to the Forest Department on 1.2.2005 by CEC and the
files were brought to this Court by the Joint Secretary subsequently. The
relevant files were always in the possession of the Joint Secretary since then
and were produced before this Court by him on 15.4.2005. He has stated that he
had never been in possession of the files except when required. He has further
stated that there was never any manipulation of file by him as alleged. He
re-iterated that as a matter of fact that there has been no specific insertion
as alleged by learned Amicus Curiae. This stand was subsequently given a go
admitted to have made the note. Then comes the other palpably unacceptable and
frivolous explanation that instead of writing on a separate piece of paper he
by mistake wrote on the official file. Apart from the frivolity of the plea, it
is clearly further falsified by the fact that on 1.2.2005 the file was with the
CEC. These leave no manner of doubt that contemnor No.1 has deliberately and wilfully
disregarded the authority of law.
B.M. Bhattacharjee (Major General) and Anr. v. Russel Estate Corporation and Anr.
(AIR 1993 SC 1633) it was observed by this Court that "all of the officers
of the Government must be presumed to know that under the constitutional scheme
obtaining in this country, orders of the courts have to be obeyed implicitly
and that orders of the apex court-for that matter any court- should not be
country or society professing rule of law as its basic feature or
characteristic does not distinguish between high or low, weak or mighty. Only
monarchies and even some democracies have adopted the age old principle that
the king cannot be sued in his own courts.
Dicey's words in relation to England are
equally applicable to any nation in the world. He said as follows:
we speak of the rule of law as a characteristic of our country, not only that
with us no man is above the law but that every man, whatever be his rank or
condition, is subject to the ordinary law of the realm and amenable to the jurisdiction
of the ordinary tribunals. In England the
idea of legal equality, or the universal subjection of all classes to one law
administered by the ordinary courts, has been pushed to its utmost limit. With
us every official, from Prime Minister down to a constable or a collector of
taxes, is under the same responsibility for every act done with legal
justification as any other citizen. The reports abound with cases in which
officials have been brought before the courts, and made, in their personal capacity,
liable to punishment, or to the payment of damages, for acts done in their
official character but in excess of their lawful authority. A colonial
governor, a secretary of State, a military officer, and all subordinates,
though carrying out the commands of their official superiors, are as
responsible for any act which the law does not authorize as is a private and
unofficial person. (See Introduction to the Study of the Law of the
Constitution, 10th Edn. 1965, pp. 193-194).
should always be shown to the Court. If any party is aggrieved by the order
which is in its opinion is wrong or against rules or implementation is neither
practicable nor feasible, it should approach the Court. This had been done and
this Court after consideration had rejected the I.A. long before.
of contemnor No.2 is that he being not very highly educated depended on the
view of the H.P.C./high placed officials. This plea is not only hollow but
without any substance. As the contemnor No.2 in his reply has indicated that he
has been a parliamentarian, a member of Legislative Assembly and Minister for
very long period. To say that he was not aware of the complexities of the
orders of this Court and, therefore, depended on the top bureaucrats is a
futile attempt to shift the responsibility. He has not even indicated as to why
the view of the Deputy Secretary, Shri Tripathi was not to be accepted. He
tried to take shelter behind the so called view of the H.P.C. and an alleged
mistake committed by the typist. In the further affidavit it has been stated
that the learned counsel drafting the petition took note of mistake committed
by the typist and accordingly drafted the reply. It is pointed out that the
correct documents were available with CEC and he would not derive any advantage
by taking plea contrary to the documents. The specific case is that the mistake
occurred at the stage of filing of the reply. Even if that is so, it is
certainly a very careless act and more care and caution was necessary,
particularly when the affidavits were being filed before this Court.
stand of contemnors also is further falsified when one takes note of the order
passed by the High Court in Kitply's case on 10.8.1998. It was clarified that
for operation of any machinery for cutting, slicing and/or peeling the timber -
a license under Rule 23 (1)(ii) of the Bombay Transit of Forest Produce (Vidarbha
region Saurashtra and Kutch Area) Rules, 1960 is required. It is not disputed
that since 1999 corresponding Rule 88 of Bombay Forest Rules, 1942 (in short 'Forest
Rules, 1942) has become applicable for entire Maharashtra. Keeping that in view I.A.No.414 of 1999 was filed to
permit grant of license under Forest Rules, 1942 to unlicensed Plywood/veneer
industries, which had NOC, industrial license etc. and to wood based industries
which intended to operate only on imported timber. The said I.A. was rejected
by this Court on 14.7.2003. This Court accepted recommendations of CEC. It was
further directed as follows:
far as 64 saw mills which claimed to be actually eligible for grant of licenses
as per notification dated 16.7.1981 are concerned their cases may be examined
by the State Government within a period of two months and if found eligible,
their application may be sent to the CEC which may submit a report to this
for emphasis) It is thus crystal clear that the applications of those eligible
for grant of licenses were required to be sent to CEC, who was then required to
submit a report to this Court.
this Court would have decided on the question of entitlement for license. The
procedure mandated by this Court was not followed. Instead of that by their
impugned actions, the contemnors permitted resumption of operations by the unit
holders. There was absolutely no confusion or scope for entertaining doubt as
claimed by the contemnors.
is one other factor which shows the brazen manner in which facts have been
distorted and without any manner of doubt wilfully. As noted by the CEC in its
second Report, the Chief Conservator of Forests, Maharashtra by his letter dated 15.2.2000 had stated that pursuant to
this Court's order dated 4.3.1997 and High Court's order dated 10.8.1998, 40
unlicensed plywood/veneer units were closed during 1999.
40 units include the six units to whom subsequently permission was granted.
Their names figure at Sl. Nos. 29, 30, 36, 37, 38 and 55 of the list enclosed
to the letter dated 15.2.2000. But during a raid conducted by the Regional
Deputy Director (WL) Western Region, MOEF on 22.3.2004, the premises of one of
six units M/s Oriental Veneer Products Pvt. Ltd. (which was sealed on
21.3.1999), the seal was found to be broken and the unit was functioning. The
raid conducted on 22.3.2004 appears to have pressed the panic button for making
representations on or about 25.3.2004. The orders were passed on these
representations showing scant regard for this Court's order.
explanations of the contemnors are clearly unacceptable. Mens rea is writ
inevitable conclusion is that both the contemnors 1 and 2 deliberately flouted
the orders of this Court in a brazen manner. It cannot be said by any stretch
of imagination that there was no mens rea involved. The fact situation clearly
shows to the contrary.
counsel appearing for contemnor No.1 and 2 stated that they have tendered
unconditional apology which should be accepted.
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
noted in L.D. Jaikwal v. State of Uttar Pradesh (AIR 1984 SC 1374) "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 not from the pen. For it is one thing to 'say' sorry-it is
another to 'feel' sorry.
for contempt are essentially personal and punitive. This does not mean that it
is not open to the Court, as a matter of law to make a finding of contempt
against any official of the Government say Home Secretary or a Minister.
contempt proceedings usually have these characteristics and contempt
proceedings against a Government department or a minister in an official
capacity would not be either personal or punitive (it would clearly not be
appropriate to fine or sequest the assets of the Crown or a Government
department or an officer of the Crown acting in his official capacity), this
does not mean that a finding of contempt against a Government department or
minister would be pointless. The very fact of making such a finding would
vindicate the requirements of justice. In addition an order for costs could be
made to underline the significance of a contempt. A purpose of the court's
powers to make findings of contempt is to ensure the orders of the court are
obeyed. This jurisdiction is required to be co-extensive with the courts'
jurisdiction to make the orders which need the protection which the
jurisdiction to make findings of contempt provides.
civil proceedings the court can now make orders (other than injunctions or for
specific performance) against authorized Government departments or the Attorney
General. On applications for judicial review orders can be made against
ministers. In consequence such orders must be taken not to offend the theory
that the Crown can supposedly do no wrong.
if such orders are made and not obeyed, the body against whom the orders were
made can be found guilty of contempt without offending that theory, which could
be the only justifiable impediment against making a finding of contempt. (See M
v. Home Office (1993 (3) All ER 537).
is a case where not only right from the beginning attempt has been made to
overreach the orders of this Court but also to draw red-herrings. Still worse
is the accepted position of inserting a note in the official file with oblique
motives. That makes the situation worse. In this case the contemnors deserve
severe punishment. This will set an example for those who have propensity of dis-regarding
the court's orders because of their money power, social status or posts held.
Exemplary sentences are called for in respect of both the contemnors. Custodial
sentence of one month simple imprisonment in each case would meet the ends of
justice. It is to be noted that in Re: Sri Pravakar Behera (Suo Motu C.P.
301/2003 dated 19.12.2003) (2003 (10) SCALE 1126), this Court had imposed costs
of Rs.50,000/- on a D.F.O. on the ground that renewal of license was not
impermissible in cases where licenses were issued prior to this Court's order
dated 4.3.1997. That was the case of an officer in the lower rung.
the high positions held by the contemnors more stringent punishment is called
for, and, therefore, we are compressing custodial sentence.
contempt petition No.83 of 2005 with I.A. Nos.1503 and 1504 in WP (C) No.202 of
1995 are disposed of.