In contempt, Court to deal with compliance of order: HC

SRINAGAR: In a land mark judgment on the scope of dealing with contempt petitions, the High Court has held that court while dealing with a contempt petition has to consider only whether the direction or judgment of the Court passed in regular proceeding, has been complied with or not.

Court of Justice Tashi Rabstan while dealing with a contempt petition alleging therein violation and disobedience of Court directions has held that Court cannot go beyond the directions contained in the order, disobedience whereof is complained of.

"Whether the authority (contemnor) rightly passed the order, or issued the byelaws, or considered the case of petitioner pursuant to the order passed by the Court or procedure adopted is correct, is not the matter to be seen by the Court dealing with contempt matter", read the judgment.

For that purpose, Court said, it is open to aggrieved person (petitioner) to approach the Court in regular proceedings by filing a fresh writ petition or whatever.

"For the foregoing reasons, I am not satisfied that there has been any willful and intentional disobedience of the order(s) of this Court. The contempt petition lacks merit and is, accordingly, dismissed", court said.

However, it is clarified that dismissal of this contempt petition shall not be construed as any expression of opinion on the issues raised in the petition and that it shall be open to petitioner to take recourse to such other remedy in such forum as may be available to petitioner in law.

The initiation of contempt proceedings against respondents for non-compliance and disobedience of order dated 21st November 2014 was filed before the court by M/s Taksal Hotel Pvt. Ltd against Union of India and others, pursuant whereto, 45 days' time was given to contemnor to publish the already approved Byelaws of Cantonment Board, Jammu and that, according to petitioner, was not published.

On the other hand Respondent (contemnor) contended that the Draft Building Byelaws, prepared by Cantonment Board for publication, were considered by Ministry of Defence, which made changes in Draft Building Byelaws and vide Government of India, Ministry of Defence (Directorate General Defence Estates, Delhi Cantt) and the same was approved for publication by Cantonment Board for inviting suggestions and objections from public.

It is further contended that as directed by the Court, Ministry of Defence has set in motion the process of publication of Byelaws, which is stated to be a multi-level process passing through various stages as per the provisions of Cantonments Act, 2006, and in compliance with above decision of Ministry of Defence, a public notice, publishing byelaws was issued/notified by Cantonment Board, Jammu, in leading daily Newspaper of Jammu, i.e. Daily Excelsior, in its Issue dated 10th April 2015.

Respondents also contended that Deputy Inspector General of Police, J&K, Range Jammu, vide letter dated 21st November 2014, communicated that unauthorised construction was stopped by Cantonment authorities and construction, undertaken by petitioner,was not in line with designs vetted, as reported by Chief Engineer, DI&QC.
It is further avowed that petitioner deliberately withdrew appeal pending before trial court at Jammu for achieving illegal and vested designs, but when the same turned otherwise, the case was deliberately withdrawn with the sole intention to deceit the judiciary and to earn favourable orders for its benefit.

Contention of respondent is that petitioner cannot, in law, claim that Bye Laws should be published according to his need and requirement, and even otherwise publication of the laws falls within the domain of competent authority and that if petitioner is aggrieved, he can work out remedy available under law.

Referring to the old age courts when kings were ruling the country court said, it was agreed that individual liberties be curtailed to some extent and disputes between the warring groups be settled by an independent agency.

Court said, everyone in the society was expected to act in such a manner so as not to come in conflict with these laws. If there was disobedience to the laws, punishment was awarded for the same.

"This is how ‘Courts' came into existence. Most of the disputes were settled by the Courts on the basis of guidelines given by the King. If the King's authority could not be questioned, then authority of the Courts could not be questioned, too. If the King could not be abused or scandalized, so also the Courts could not be abused or scandalized. Just as the proceedings before the King could not be prejudiced, or obstructed, similarly the proceedings before the Court could not be prejudiced or obstructed", Justice Tashi said.

Court further added that if anyone interfered in the administration of justice, he was liable to be punished. It is the genesis of the law of contempt of Courts. Anyone howsoever high he may be, could be punished for disobedience. The punishment had no limits.

Now coming with the contempt proceedings, the legislation with regard to ‘contempt of court Act' first brought on the statute Book of India in 1926). The Act was replaced by the Act 1952. In both these Acts, Court said, the object was mentioned as, ‘An Act to define and limit the powers of certain Courts in punishing contempt of Courts'.

The Courts in India, Justice Tashi said, have held that it is the duty of the Court to protect defendants from being cowed down into submission and under pressure of threat, menace, being made to abandon pleas, which they can legitimately take in a pending case and that if person attempts to bring pressure on a party to a proceeding, to admit his claim, he should be committed for contempt of court, as his action tends to interfere with the due course of justice in the Court.

Court has concluded that in the instant contempt petition there is no willful and intentional disobedience on part of respondents (contemnors) in implementation of Court order(s) vis-a-vis issuance and notification of Building Bye-Laws.

"The preparation, drafting, vetting, finalising and approval of the Bye-Laws may be wrong or may be right or may or may not be in conformity with the directions. But that would be a fresh cause of action for the aggrieved party to avail of the opportunity of judicial review and that cannot be considered to be willful violation of the order", read the judgment.

"In exercise of powers as contemplated under contempt proceedings, a fresh direction by this Court cannot be given to respondents to redraw the Building Bye Laws, in that, same would amount to exercising jurisdiction to consider the matter on merits in contempt proceedings, which is not otherwise permissible", court said.



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