11 November 2019


Judgments

High Court of Delhi

Ram Bilash Mahto And Ors. v. Food Corporation of India Workers Union And Anr.

MANU/DE/3354/2016

19.12.2016

Contempt of Court

Apology offered at time when the contemnor finds that Court is about to impose punishment, is no apology

In instant contempt appeal, Appellants are aggrieved by order passed by Single Judge holding them guilty of contempt of court and sentencing them to simple imprisonment for 5 days and a fine of Rs.1000/-. First respondent is a registered trade Union under Trade Unions Act, and second respondent is its elected President. Election was held in furtherance of the orders of this Court. In terms of said orders, elections of Union were to be conducted under supervision of a court commissioner duly appointed by Court. During said period, Appellants allegedly dissolved Union through Resolution dated 15.06.2008. Respondents, therefore, initiated contempt proceedings.

Order concerning the conduction of election procedure under supervision of the court commissioner duly appointed by Court, as is apparent, has been openly flouted. The reasons cited by Appellants for such deviation is that the other members had been siphoning funds meant for members and the Union. However, in such a scenario, right method of redressing it would have been to approach the court with a complaint and seek redress or obtain approval of the court before taking the said measure. Appellants clearly held themselves out as members of concerned official body, even though there was an injunction against such course of action. Appellants further argued that they had no intention to disrespect and violate the orders of the court, much less willfully. Court order had further mandated them to not be represented as office bearers until fresh elections are conducted. Appellants are in violation of said direction as well. Act of dissolution interfered with Union’s conduction of election process and with administration of judicial proceedings, contrary to what was argued by Appellants.

In Debabrata Bandhopadhyay v. State of West Bengal, (AIR 1969 SC 189), it was observed that an apology should be offered clearly and immediately, a belated apology may purge contempt but there is always a risk of it not being accepted. In Deenabandhu Saha v. State of Orissa AIR 1972 SC 175, the Supreme Court held that when the Court is convinced about the sincerity of the apology tendered by contemnors through their counsel, at time of hearing, it deserves acceptance even though it was not tendered earlier or it wasn’t in writing. It was further observed that punishment for contempt is called for when the lapse is deliberate and in disregard of one’s duty and in defiance of authority. Such action should not be taken in an unclear case. In present case, there is a clear defiance of the authority of the Court’s order. In Rajni Parekh Arts KB Commerce and BCJ Science College Khambhat v. Mahendra Ambalal Shah AIR 1986 SC 1074, the deliberate flouting of directions given by the High Court and breach of an undertaking given to the Supreme Court in a service matter was held to be contempt. The party there tendered an unconditional apology after service of notice of contempt and fully complied with the orders of the Court and the undertaking. It has been ruled by Supreme Court that, an apology offered at the time when the contemnor finds that the Court is about to impose punishment, is no apology and can be rejected. Views expressed in impugned judgment do not call for interference, either as to conviction or sentence, terms of which are proportionate and reasonable.

Relevant

Debabrata Bandhopadhyay v. State of West Bengal, (AIR 1969 SC 189), Rajni Parekh Arts KB Commerce and BCJ Science College Khambhat v. Mahendra Ambalal Shah AIR 1986 SC 1074

Tags : Contempt Guilty Sentence

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