Only Willful and Intentional Disobedience of the Court’s Order Amounts to Contempt of Court: SC

Only willful and intentional disobedience of the Court’s order amounts to contempt of Court: SC

Before punishing a person for non-compliance of the decision of the Court, the Court must not only be satisfied about the disobedience of any judgment, decree, direction, writ or other process but should also be satisfied that such disobedience was willful and intentional, noted the Apex Court.

The bench observed this while concluding a contempt petition filed in 2008. That rose out of a family dispute between a father on one hand and his two sons from his first wife on the other hand.

 It was alleged that the party in his attempt to deceive an order passed by the Supreme Court in a previously contempt petition, approached the Company Law Board and obtained an interim order. The contempt petitioner alleged that invoking the jurisdiction of the Company Law Board and entertaining the said proceedings by the Company Law Board, itself amounts to contempt.

“A person does not commit contempt of court if during the pendency of certain proceedings; he takes recourse to other judicial proceedings open to him, even though the latter proceedings put the other party at a loss.”

“It could thus be seen, that this Court has held, that such action of a person which he takes in pursuance of his right to take legal action in a court of law, will not amount to interfering with the course of justice, even though that may require some action on the part of the other party in connection with his own judicial proceedings. The principle is that a party is free to take action to enforce his legal right. This Court has approved the view taken by Allahabad High Court in Hrishikesh Sanyal v. A.P. Bagchi and Radhey Lal v. Niranjan Nath, that a person does not commit contempt of court if during the pendency of certain proceedings, he takes recourse to other judicial proceedings open to him, even though the latter proceedings put the other party at a loss,” the Court said.

Elucidating the scope of contempt proceedings the Court observed that only willful disobedience of any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of the Court would amount to contempt. “It can thus be seen, that this Court has held, that the contempt proceeding is not like an execution proceeding under the Code of Civil Procedure. It has been held, that though the parties in whose favour, an order has been passed, is entitled to the benefits of such 64 order, but the Court while considering the issue as to whether the alleged contemnor should be punished for not having complied with and carried out the directions of the Court, has to take into consideration all facts and circumstances of a particular case. It has been held, that is why the framers of the Act while defining civil contempt, have said that it must be wilful disobedience of any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of the Court. It has been held, that before punishing the contemnor for non-compliance of the decision of the Court, the Court must not only be satisfied about the disobedience of any judgment, decree, direction, writ or other process but should also be satisfied that such disobedience was wilful and intentional. Though, the civil court while executing a decree against the judgment-debtor is not concerned and bothered as to whether the disobedience to any judgment or decree was wilful and once the decree had been passed, it was the duty of the court to execute the decree, whatever may be the consequences thereof. In a contempt proceeding before a contemnor is held guilty and punished, the Court has to record a finding, that such disobedience was wilful and intentional. It has been held, that if from the circumstances of a particular case, though the Court is satisfied that there has been a disobedience but such disobedience is the result of some compelling circumstances, under which it is not possible for the contemnor to comply with the same, the Court may not punish the alleged contemnor.”

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“The alleged contemnor is entitled to the protection of all safeguards/rights which are provided in the criminal jurisprudence, including the benefit of doubt. There 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 Court has also referred to the observations made by this Court in the case of Debabrata Bandopadbyay and Others v. State of West Bengal and Another, wherein it was observed, that 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, it added.

The bench thus close the contempt petition noting that a case of willful, deliberate and intentional disobedience of any of the directions given by the Court or acting in breach of an undertaking given to the Court is not made out.

Case Name: RAMA NARANG vs. RAMESH NARANG

Citation: CONTEMPT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 92 OF 2008

Coram: Justices AM Khanwilkar and BR Gavai

Only willful and intentional disobedience of the Court’s order amounts to contempt of Court: SC

Also Read: Deprivation of Property Right Can Only be in Accordance with the Procedure Established by Law, reiterated Supreme Court

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