Sahdeo Singh Vs. State of U.P. & Ors.  INSC 142 (23 February 2010)
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 527
of 2002 Sahdeo @ Sahdeo Singh ...Appellant Versus State of U.P. & Ors.
...Respondents WITH CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 531 of 2002 Liladhar ...Appellant
Versus State of U.P. & Ors. ...Respondents
The present appeals have been filed against the judgment and order
of the Allahabad High Court dated 20.12.2001 passed in Criminal Contempt No. 69
of 1997, convicting the appellants for not complying with the AIR 1997 SC 610,
and sentencing them for six months' imprisonment and also imposing a fine to
the tune of Rs.2000/- each. Further, direction has been issued to the State
Government to terminate the services of the appellants after holding
The facts and circumstances giving rise to the present appeals are
that one Ramwati lodged an FIR dated 01.06.1997 in the Police Station Kotwali
Ghaziabad with an allegation that her son Tej Veer Singh @ Pappu, a man of
absolutely clear antecedents, never involved in any criminal case, who was
running a sweet mart shop, was going to Allahabad by Prayagraj Express on
29.05.1997. He was apprehended by Deep Chand, Sub-Inspector of Police, posted
at Police Station, Sector 24, Noida and Constable Ramesh Chandra, posted in the
office of Superintendent of Police (R.A.) Ghaziabad along with some other
policemen, from Shyamal Chauk, Sibbanpura, Ghaziabad. Tej Veer Singh was
carrying a briefcase containing clothes and Rs. 40000/- in cash apart from the
ticket. At the time of apprehending, neither the reason for his arrest nor the
destination, where he was being taken to, was disclosed to him. His family members
ran from pillar to post to know his whereabouts but in vain. On 30.05.1997,
telegraphic information regarding abduction of Tej Veer Singh @ Pappu by police
was sent to the Senior Superintendent of Police, Ghaziabad and Inspector
General of Police, Meerut Zone.
No action was taken on the aforesaid FIR, thus Smt. Ramwati,
mother of Tej Veer Singh made complaint to the Senior Suptd. of Police,
Ghaziabad, Hon'ble the Chief Justice of India and the Chairman, National Human
Rights Commission, New Delhi. The case was registered only on 04.06.1997 under
Section 364 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter called IPC). However, no
progress was made in the investigation. Being aggrieved, a Habeas Corpus
petition, being numbered as Crl. Misc. (Habeas Corpus) Writ Petition No. 20040
of 1997, was filed in June, 1997 by one M. C. Verma, being next friend of the
detenu Tej Veer Singh before the Allahabad High Court. In the said petition,
allegations had been made that the respondent therein, Deep Chand, Sub-Inspector
of Police and Constable Ramesh Chandra had detained Tej Veer Singh illegally
since 29.5.1997 and his whereabouts were not known.
As the High Court could not get any information from the State
regarding the whereabouts of Tej Veer Singh, the Court, vide order dated
30.07.1997, directed the District Judge, Ghaziabad to hold an inquiry regarding
the allegations made in the Habeas Corpus petition. The purpose of holding an
inquiry was to find out as to whether the police was responsible for his arrest
and thereafter, his disappearance.
The District Judge submitted his report dated 03.12.1997 wherein
it was mentioned that Yashpal, the elder brother of Tej Veer Singh, was a
hardened criminal, and was wanted in large number of criminal cases. The police
had taken away Tej Veer Singh alongwith one Jagdish Kumar to know the
whereabouts of Yashpal to Murad Nagar Police Station, where they were beaten
up. However, no information could be gathered from either of them about
Yashpal. It was found that Jagdish Kumar was released by the police from its
custody at 4.00 AM on 30.05.1997 but Tej Veer Singh remained under detention
and still remained untraceable. Sub-Inspector Deep Chand was the mastermind in
abducting Tej Veer Singh and Constable Ramesh Chandra had participated in
illegal detention. Sub-Inspectors R. P. Singh and Satya Veer Singh, who were
allegedly participated in abduction, were exonerated. However, Sahdeo Singh,
Lila Dhar (appellants) and one Sujan Singh, Constable, were found to have participated
in abduction. Sub- Inspector Deep Chand, had died in a car accident on
20.08.1997. After receiving the report from the District Judge, the High Court
on 4.12.1997 issued notices to the four indicted persons initiating proceedings
for criminal contempt suo motu. Sujan Singh submitted an application before the
High Court that during the inquiry by the District Judge, no notice/opportunity
of hearing was given to him. The High Court asked the 4 District Judge,
Ghaziabad to provide an opportunity of hearing to the said applicant-Sujan
Singh and submit a supplementary report. The said report was submitted on
10.07.1998 exonerating Sujan Singh from any criminal liability. Sahdeo Singh
and Ramesh Chandra submitted their replies to the said Show Cause Notices dated
4.12.1997. Lila Dhar did not submit any reply.
whereabouts of Tej Veer Singh could not be known, the High Court disposed of
the Habeas Corpus petition vide judgment and order dated 20.12.2001
transferring the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation
(hereinafter called, "CBI"). In contempt case, the Court came to the
conclusion that taking the said Tej Veer Singh into custody, was in violation
of the directions issued by this Court in D. K. Basu (supra) and held all the
three alleged contemnors guilty. Constable Ramesh Chandra was sentenced for six
months' imprisonment and a fine of rupees one lakh was imposed. In addition,
Rs. 5000/- was imposed as costs. The appellants were imposed the punishment of
six months' imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 2000/- each. Further direction was
issued to the State to terminate their services after holding disciplinary
proceedings. Hence, these appeals.
Sh. Jitendra Mohan Sharma and Sh. P.K. Jain, learned counsel
appearing for the appellants, have submitted that the High Court had committed
an error as while disposing of the Habeas Corpus petition it observed that Tej
Veer Singh had died and, therefore, no purpose would be served in continuing
with the Habeas Corpus petition. There was not even prima facie evidence
against the appellants in contempt proceedings. The court did not adopt the
fair procedure. Even charges had not been framed.
enquiry conducted by the District Judge, at the most, could be treated to be a
preliminary enquiry. The High Court erred in placing reliance on a preliminary
enquiry report and convicting the appellants without furnishing the copy
thereof to them. More so, the contempt proceedings are quasi- criminal in
nature. The Court while deciding the criminal case does not have competence to
issue any direction affecting the civil rights of the parties. Therefore, the
judgment and order impugned is liable to be set aside.
contrary, Sh. R.K. Gupta, learned counsel appearing for the State of U.P. and
Sh. K.C. Lamba, learned counsel appearing for Smt. Ramwati, the mother of Tej
Veer Singh, defended the impugned judgment and order contending that a fair
trial had been conducted. The appellant Lila Dhar did not even submit the reply
to the Show Cause Notice issued by the 6 High Court. Therefore, no fault could
be found with the impugned judgment and order. The appeals are liable to be
considered the rival submissions made by the learned counsel for the parties
and perused the record.
The impugned judgment and the record of the case reveal that as no
progress was likely to be made in the Habeas Corpus petition, the District
Judge, Ghaziabad, was directed to conduct an inquiry in the allegations made in
the petition and also taking note of the contents of the FIR dated 4.6.1997
lodged by Smt. Ramwati, the mother of Tej Veer Singh. The District Judge
submitted his report after recording evidence of the witnesses, particularly,
the family members and friends of Tej Veer Singh, and also hearing the
appellants and other police officials. On the basis of the report submitted by
the District Judge, the Habeas Corpus petition was disposed of vide Order dated
20.12.2001 presuming that Tej Veer Singh was dead.
Section 108 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (hereinafter called
`Evidence Act') provides for presumption of a person being dead in case he has
not been heard of for seven years. In the instant case, only a period of 7 4=
years had elapsed. Therefore, we are not able to understand as under what circumstances,
such a presumption could be drawn by the High Court.
The proceedings of contempt are quasi-criminal in nature. In a
case where the order passed by the court is not complied with by mistake,
inadvertence or by mis-understanding of the meaning and purport of the order,
unless it is intentional, no charge of contempt can be brought home.
possibly be a case where disobedience is accidental. If that is Justice and his
companion Justices of the Orissa High Court & Anr., AIR 1961 SC 1367).
Bengal & Anr., AIR 1969 SC 189, this Court has observed as under:- "A
question whether there is contempt of court or not is a serious one. The court
is both the accuser as well as the judge of the accusation. It behoves the
court to act with as great circumspection as possible making all allowances for
errors of judgment and difficulties arising from inveterate practices in courts
and tribunals. It is only when a clear case of contumacious conduct not
explainable otherwise, arises that the contemnor must be punished.........
Punishment under the law of Contempt is called for when the lapse is deliberate
and in disregard of one's duty and in defiance of authority. To take action in
an unclear case is to make the law of contempt do duty for other measures and
is not to be encouraged."
view has been re-iterated by this Court in Aligarh (1995) 3 SCC 559.
Sonabati Kumari, AIR 1961 SC 221, held that the provisions of Contempt of
Courts Act, 1971 (for short `the Act, 1971') deal with the wilful defiance of
the order passed by the Court. Order of punishment be not passed if the Court
is satisfied that the party was, in fact, under a misapprehension as to the
scope of the order or there was an unintentional wrong for the reason that the
order was ambiguous and reasonably capable of more than one interpretation or
the party never intended to disobey the order but conducted himself in
accordance with the interpretation of the order.
of the Pepsu High Court at Patiala, AIR 1954 SC 186, this Court placing
reliance upon the judgment of the Privy Council in Andre Paul AIR 1936 PC 141,
held that the proceedings under the Contempt of Courts Act are quasi-criminal
in nature and orders passed in those proceedings are to be treated as orders
passed in criminal cases.
this Court held that burden and standard of proof in contempt proceedings,
being quasi-criminal in nature, is the standard of proof required in criminal
proceedings, for the reason that contempt proceedings are quasi- criminal in
nature. & Ors., AIR 2001 SC 1293, this Court placing reliance upon a large
number 1 Newatia & Ors., AIR 2000 SC 833, held that jurisdiction of the
contempt has been conferred on the Court to punish an offender for his
contemptuous conduct or obstruction to the majesty of law, but in the case of
quasi- criminal in nature, charges have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt
and alleged contemnor becomes entitled to the benefit of doubt. It would be
very hazardous to impose sentence in contempt proceedings on some probabilities.
with an untoward incident i.e. ex-facie contempt in Allahabad High Court
wherein, the High Court passed certain orders without following the procedure
prescribed in the Rules applicable in such proceedings. This Court held that
power of the High Court even under Article 215 of the Constitution has to be
exercised in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law. The Court
observed as under :
......... we are of the opinion that the Court while passing the impugned order
had not followed the procedure prescribed by law. It is true that the High
Court can invoke powers and jurisdiction vested in it under Article 215 of the
Constitution of India but such a jurisdiction has to be exercised in accordance
with the 1 procedure prescribed by law. It is in these circumstances the
impugned order cannot be sustained." (Emphasis supplied) 2009 SC 735, this
Court held that in contempt proceedings the court must conclude the trial and
complete the proceedings "in accordance with the procedure prescribed by
law". However, for enforcing the order passed by the Court "a roving
enquiry is not permissible". The proceedings had to be completed most
expeditiously and the court has to permit the parties to cross-examine the
witnesses to enable the court to reach a particular finding.
Court should not punish an alleged contemnor without any foundation merely on
conjectures and surmises in criminal contempt. (Vide State of Haryana &
Ors, AIR 1996 SC 2326; Contemnor: In re, Court, Bombay, AIR 2003 SC 3039).
Court while dealing with the same issue held as under:
.........Now, it is one thing to say that the standard of proof in a contempt
proceeding is no less rigorous than a criminal trial but it is something
entirely different to insist that the manner of proof for the two proceedings
must also be the same.
is now well settled and so also the High Court has held that the proceeding of
contempt of court is sui generis. In other words, it is not strictly controlled
by the provisions of CrPC and the Evidence Act. What, however, applies to a
proceeding of contempt of court are the principles of natural justice and those
principles apply to the contempt proceeding with greater rigour than any other
proceeding. This means that the court must follow a procedure that is fair and
objective; that should cause no prejudice to the person facing the charge of
contempt of court and that should allow him/her the fullest opportunity to
defend himself/herself." (Emphasis added)
Court In Re: Vinay Chandra Mishra (the alleged contemnor) (1995) 2 SCC 584, has
observed that a contempt amounts to an offence but it is an offence sui generis
and hence for such an offence, the procedure adopted both under the common law
and the statute law has always been summary. The Court held that in spite of
the fact that it is a summary procedure, there must be an opportunity to the
alleged contemnor of meeting the charge. The degree of precision with which the
charge may be stated 1 depends upon the circumstances. So long as the gist of
the specific allegation is made clear or otherwise the contemnor is aware of
the specific allegation, it is not always necessary to formulate the charge. So
long as the contemnor's interest is adequately safeguarded by giving him an
opportunity of being heard in his defence, even summary procedure in the case
of contempt cannot be found fault with.
Daroga Singh (supra), this Court observed that in case, the alleged contemnor
feels that there is a necessity to cross-examine the witnesses i.e. deponents
of affidavits filed against him, the alleged contemnor must be given an
opportunity to cross-examine the said witnesses provided it is so asked by him.
This Court observed that in Contempt proceedings, a summary procedure is to be
adopted for the reason that matter is to be disposed of most expeditiously and
it is for this reason that in spite of the fact that proceedings are
quasi-criminal in nature, the procedure under Cr.P.C. or Evidence Act is not
20. In view
of the above, the law can be summarised that the High Court has a power to
initiate the contempt proceedings suo motu for ensuring the compliance of the
orders passed by the Court. However, contempt proceedings being quasi-criminal
in nature, the same standard of proof is 1 required in the same manner as in
other criminal cases. The alleged contemnor is entitled to the protection of
all safeguards/rights which are provided in the Criminal Jurisprudence,
including the benefit of doubt.
must be a clear-cut case of obstruction of administration of justice by a party
intentionally to bring the matter within the ambit of the said provision. The
alleged contemnor is to be informed as what is the charge, he has to meet.
Thus, specific charge has to be framed in precision. The alleged contemnor may
ask the Court to permit him to cross-examine the witnesses i.e. deponents of
affidavits, who have deposed against him. In spite of the fact that contempt
proceedings are quasi-criminal in nature, provisions of Code of Criminal
Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter called, "Cr.P.C.") and Evidence Act are
not attracted for the reason that proceedings have to be concluded
expeditiously. Thus, the trial has to be concluded as early as possible. The
case should not rest only on surmises and conjectures. There must be clear and
reliable evidence to substantiate the allegations against the alleged
contemnor. The proceedings must be concluded giving strict adherence to the
statutory Rules framed for the purpose.
instant cases are required to be examined in view of the aforesaid settled
legal proposition. The contempt proceedings had been initiated under the Act,
1971. Section 23 of the Act 1971 enables the High Court to frame 1 rules
providing for a procedure in contempt cases. In view thereof, the Allahabad
High Court framed the rules by adding chapter XXXV-E in the Allahabad High
Court Rules, 1952 (hereinafter called the `Rules 1952') vide amendment
published in Uttar Pradesh Gazette, Part II dated 12.2.1977. As per the said
rules, a criminal contempt is to be dealt with by the Division Bench and a
detailed procedure to file the application etc. has been laid down therein.
Once the Court is prima facie satisfied that there is a case to proceed with
the contempt against a person concerned, the Division Bench in such case has to
proceed giving strict adherence to the procedure prescribed under the Rules
1952. Rule 5 of the Chapter XXXV-E reads as under:- "5. Issuance of
notice. - Such allegations contained in the petition as appears to the Court to
make out a prima facie case of contempt of Court against the person concerned,
shall be reduced into charge or charges by the Court against such person, and
notice shall be issued only with respect to those charges. (Emphasis added).
thereof provides mandatorily that the show cause notice issued under Rule 5
must be accompanied with material documents. The Rule reads as under:- 1
"6. Documents accompanied notice. - Where an order has been made directing
that notice be issued to any person to show cause why he should not be punished
for contempt of Court, a date shall be fixed for the hearing and a notice
thereof in the prescribed form given to the person concerned. The notice of a
criminal contempt shall also be served on the Government Advocate. The notice
shall be accompanied by copies of the application, motion and the affidavit or
a copy of the reference by a subordinate court as the case may be, and a copy
of the charge or charges as framed by the Court, and shall require the person
concerned to appear, unless otherwise ordered, in person before the Court at
the time and on the date specified therein to show cause why he should not be
punished for Contempt of Court. Notice of every proceeding under Section 15 of
the Act shall be served personally on the person charged, unless the Court for
reasons to be recorded directs otherwise."
added) Thus, it is evident that while initiating contempt proceedings the Court
has to frame the charge (s) and serve the same alongwith other relevant
material upon the alleged contemnor. This is a mandatory requirement under the
question does arise as to whether the contempt proceedings had been concluded
in conformity with the aforesaid Rules? The enquiry entrusted to the District
Judge was to find out as what was the truth in the allegations made in the
Habeas Corpus Petition about kidnapping of Tej Veer Singh. After submission of
both the reports by the District Judge, Ghaziabad, the Court suo motu initiated
the contempt proceedings. The 1 appellants ought to have been told clearing as
for what offence they were being tried. We have examined the original record of
the case and to our utter surprise, we find that show cause notices for suo
motu contempt Ramesh Chandra & Ors.". The notice reads as under:
THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT ALLAHABAD QUASI CRIMINAL SIDE NO.48- NOTICE In
the matter of Crl. Miscellaneous Contempt Case No.69/97 Between State of U.P.
..Applicant And Ramesh Chandra & Ors. ..Opposite Party Sri Lilidhar
Constable Police Station Muradnagar, District Ghaziabad.
WHEREAS the abovenamed applicant has represented to this Court that you have
committed contempt of court.
WHEREAS the 31st day of March, 1998 has been fixed for the hearing of the said
hereby given to you calling upon you to appear in person in this Court on the
above mentioned date at 10 O' clock in the forenoon to show cause why you
should not be punished for contempt of court.
under my hand and the seal of the Court, This 20th day of February, 1998.
notices had been served upon the appellants and other alleged contemnor. There
was no case filed by the State of U.P. before the High Court in respect of
abduction of Tej Veer Singh nor any application for initiating contempt
proceedings was ever filed by any person. Admittedly, the proceedings were
initiated by the High Court suo motu. The notice itself remains incomplete,
inaccurate and mis-leading. The Registry of the High Court issued the
"dotted lines notice" without any sense of responsibility.
notice did not mention as what was the allegation/accusation against either of
them. It did not contain any charge(s) against either of them. In D.K. Basu
(supra) this Court has issued as many as eleven directions to the police
authorities inter-alia, furnishing the information of the person arrested to
his relatives; the person should be arrested only by the police officials with
clear identification marks; a memo of arrest is to be prepared at the time of
arrest, which should be attested at least by some person from the locality; the
time, place of arrest and venue of custody must be disclosed etc. This Court
further observed that non-observance of any of the directions issued therein
would make the Police personnel liable for departmental action and render them
liable to be punished for Contempt of 1 Court and proceedings for Contempt of
Court would be initiated in the High Court having territorial jurisdiction over
notice did not make any reference to the judgment of this Court in D.K.Basu
(supra). Neither the report of the District Judge nor any evidence collected by
him during that inquiry, nor any other document relevant to the case was
annexed with the said notice. Rather, considering the reply of Constable Ramesh
Chandra and Sahdeo Singh, the impugned judgment and order has been passed. The
aforesaid Rules 1952 provide for a specific procedure to hold the trial in
contempt cases. The Rules 1952 mandatorily require the framing of charge(s) and
furnishing the copy of the documents to the alleged contemnor on the basis of
which, the charges have been framed.
instant cases, there has been no compliance of these mandatory provisions
contained in the Rules. In absence of the charge(s), a
delinquent/accused/alleged contemnor may not be able to furnish any defence as
he is not aware as to what charge(s) he is required to meet. Every statutory
provision requires strict adherence, for the reason that the Statute creates
rights in favour of persons concerned. The impugned judgment suffered from
non-observance of the principles of natural justice and not 2 ensuring the
compliance of Statutory Rules, 1952. Thus, the trial itself suffered from
material procedural defect and stood vitiated.
impugned judgment and order, so far as the conviction of the appellants in
Contempt proceedings are concerned, is liable to be set aside.
the impugned judgment and order, Constable Ramesh Chandra was convicted and
punished with imprisonment for six months. Further, a fine of Rs. 1 lakh and
costs of Rs. 5000/- were also imposed on him. We are told that during the
pendency of his appeals, i.e. Criminal Appeal Nos. 530 & 532 of 2002,
Constable Ramesh Chandra has died and those appeals have been disposed of
accordingly. Appellants were, however, convicted and imposed punishment as
referred to hereinabove.
the instant cases, the record reveals that the Habeas Corpus petition was taken
by the High Court on 30.07.1997 and directed the District Judge, Ghaziabad to
hold the inquiry on the allegations made in the Habeas Corpus petition. The
District Judge submitted the report on 03.12.1997. The Court considered the
case on 4.12.1997 and initiated contempt proceedings against appellants and
others suo motu. Matter was remanded to the District Judge for further inquiry
in view of the fact that Sujan Singh was not heard in the 2 earlier inquiry.
The District Judge, Ghaziabad, submitted the supplementary inquiry report on
12.07.1998. After hearing the parties the judgment was reserved on 12.03.1999.
Thereafter, it was listed on 14.12.2001 i.e. after 2 years and 9 months for
fresh arguments. However, the counsel for the parties stated that nothing more
was required to be submitted except what had been argued earlier. The judgment
was pronounced on 20.12.2001. It is apparent from the order sheets itself that
the matter remained pending before the Court, so far as the contempt
proceedings are concerned, for more than three years which itself is in
contravention of the true spirit of the purpose of initiation of the contempt
view of the above, we reach the inescapable conclusion that contempt
proceedings had been concluded without ensuring the compliance of the mandatory
provisions of the Rules 1952. The appellants had never been informed as what
were the charges against them. The relevant documents on the basis of which the
High Court had taken a prima facie view while initiating the contempt
proceedings suo motu, had not been made available to them. The notice itself
was not only defective, but inaccurate and totally mis-leading. The facts and
circumstances of the case warrant reversal of the aforesaid judgment and order.
Court, while entertaining these appeals, granted interim relief to the
appellants. Thus, State could not initiate disciplinary proceedings against
either of them.
appeals stand allowed. The judgment and order dated 20.12.2001 passed by the
Allahabad High Court in Criminal Contempt No.69 of 1997 is hereby set aside.
.......................................J. (J.M. PANCHAL)
, ....................................... J.