8 July 2019


Judgments

High Court of Madras

S. Ranganathan Vs. Sabeetha and Ors.

MANU/TN/1918/2018

18.04.2018

Contempt of Court

No Court shall initiate any proceedings for contempt, either on its own motion or otherwise, after expiry of prescribed period

The present Contempt Petition is filed, seeking implementation of the order dated 15th September, 2011. The present Contempt Petition has been filed after a lapse of about two and half years from the date of passing of the order. The issue involved in present petition is whether present Court can invoke Article 215 of Constitution of India for entertaining the contempt application beyond the period of one year.

Section 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 provides limitation for actions for contempt. No Court shall initiate any proceedings for contempt, either on its own motion or otherwise, after the expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed. Article 215 of the Constitution of India provides that, High Courts to be Courts of record. Every High Court shall be a Court of record and shall have all the powers of such a Court including the power to punish for contempt of itself. Thus, the Constitution provides powers to the High Court to punish for contempt itself. No doubt, such a power is granted for the effective implementations of the orders of the Hon'ble High Court.

The High Court's cannot invoke the powers under Article 215 of the Constitution of India, in all the cases by entertaining the contempt application beyond the period of one year, so as to dilute or eradicate the law prescribed under Section 20 of the Act. All contempt applications ought to be filed within the period of limitation prescribed under Section 20 of the Act. The High Court on exceptional circumstances, on arriving at a conclusion that, a gross injustice to the society or the case is of public importance, then the inherent powers provided under Article 215 of the Constitution of India, can be exercised without reference to Section 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act. A litigant may come out with an interpretation that an injustice is caused to all the orders or judgements passed by the High Courts.

No doubt, the litigants approach the Court to get justice that does not mean that all the contempt applications have to be entertained after a period of one year prescribed under Section 20 of the Act. Generalisation in this regard can never be encouraged. What exactly the circumstances warranting interference under Article 215 of the Constitution of India has to be decided judiciously and applying the peculiar facts and circumstances prevailing in each and every case. General application in this regard is certainly impermissible and Courts have to interpret these provisions in a pragmatic way than in a general manner. In other words, the principles of constructive interpretation is to be adopted while interpreting the period of limitation under Section 20 of the Act as well as Article 215 of the Constitution of India. The present Contempt Petition is rejected on the ground of laches.

Tags : Contempt Petition Delay Maintainability

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