Allahabad High Court Judgement

Allahabad High Court Judgement

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JUDGEMENT HEADLINE : The Action Must Be Initiated In A Contempt Proceeding Within A Period Of One Year From The Date The Contempt Is Alleged To Have Been Committed.
JUDGEMENT TITLE : Bali Ram Vs. Chief Engineer, Irrigation, Deptt. Gorakhpur & Others. On 21/09/2006 By Allahabad High Court
CASE NO : SPECIAL APPEAL NO. 1080 OF 2006
CORAM : Hon'ble Ajoy Nath Ray,J. And Hon'ble Ashok Bhushan,J.

HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT ALLAHABAD


CJ's Court
Special Appeal No.1080 Of 2006
Bali Ram
Vs.
Chief Engineer, Irrigation Department, Gorakhpur And Others

Counsel For The Appellant: 1. Sri K.N. Mishra, Advocate
Counsel For The Respondents: 1. Chief Standing Counsel
~~~~~~~

Hon'ble Ajoy Nath Ray, CJ.
Hon'ble Ashok Bhushan, J.

Heard Learned Counsel For The Appellant And The Learned Standing Counsel.
This Is An Appeal Against The Judgment And Order Dated 1.8.2006 Of A Learned Single Judge Dismissing The Contempt Application Filed By The Appellant, As Barred By Limitation, As Provided Under Section 20 Of The Contempt Of Courts Act, 1971.
Brief Facts Necessary For Deciding The Appeal Are; That The Appellant Filed A Writ Petition Bearing No.43587 Of 1998 Praying A Direction For His Engagement As Muster Roll Employee In Pursuance Of A Circular Dated 29.2.1996 On The Ground That His Father, Who Was Working As A Muster Roll Employee, Died After Putting Ten Years Service As A Muster Roll Employee. The Said Writ Petition Was Allowed By This Court On 18.5.2004. An Application Under Section 12 Of The Contempt Of Courts Act, Being Contempt Application No.870 Of 2005 Was Filed By The Appellant On 17.3.2005. The Court Entertained The Contempt Application On 21.3.2005 And Asked The Applicant To File A Supplementary Affidavit. Subsequently, The Contempt Application Came For Hearing On 1.8.2006; The Same Has Been Rejected As Barred By Time.
The Question, Which Has Arisen, Is As To Whether The Contempt Application Filed, Was Barred By Time. Section 20 Of The Contempt Of Courts Act Provides As Follows:-
"20. 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".


Section 20 Of The Contempt Of Courts Act Provides That 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. Section 20 Of The Contempt Of Courts Act Came For Consideration Before The Apex Court In Om Prakash Jaiswal Vs. D.K. Mittal, Reported At (2000) 3 SCC 171. In The Aforesaid Case, The Order Of The Court Was Passed On 19.12.1986 On An Undertaking. The Contempt Was Alleged To Have Been Committed On 11.1.1987. The Application For Initiating Proceedings Under Section 12 Of The Contempt Of Courts Act Was Filed Soon Thereafter, And On 15.1.1987, The High Court Issued A Show Cause Notice To The Opposite Party As To Why Contempt Proceedings Should Not Be Initiated. On 6.1.1988 A Notice Was Directed To Be Issued Why The Opposite Party Be Not Punished For Disobeying The Order Dated 19.12.1986. The High Court Subsequently Came To The Conclusion That Issuing Of A Show Cause Notice Did Not Amount The Initiation Of Proceedings And, Therefore, The Bar Enacted By Section 20 Of The Act Was Attracted And The Application Was Liable To Be Rejected. The Apex Court In The Said Judgment Laid Down That Filing Of An Application Or Petition For Initiating Proceedings For Contempt Or A Mere Receipt Of Such Reference By The Court Does Not Amount To Initiation Of The Proceedings By Court. It Held That It Is Only When The Court Has Formed An Opinion That A Prima Facie Case For Initiating Proceedings For Contempt Is Made Out And That The Respondents Or The Alleged Contemners Should Be Called Upon To Show Cause Why They Should Not Be Punished, Only Then The Court Can Be Said To Have Initiated Proceedings For Contempt.
A Three Judges' Bench Had Occasion To Consider Section 20 Of The Contempt Of Courts Act Again In (2001) 7 SCC 549 Pallav Sheth Vs. Custodian And Others. Om Prakash Jaiswal's Case Was Also Considered By The Three Judges' Bench Apart From Other Cases And The Apex Court In Paragraph 42 Of The Judgment Held That The Decision In Om Prakash Jaiswal's Case To The Effect That Initiation Of Proceedings Under Section 20 Can Only Be Said To Have Occurred When The Court Formed The Prima Facie Opinion That Contempt Has Been Committed And Issued Notice To

The Contemner To Show Cause Why It Should Not Be Punished, Is Taking Too
narrow A View Of Section 20, Which Does Not Seem To Be Warranted And Is Not Only Going To Cause Hardship But Would Perpetrate Injustice. Following Was Laid Down In Paragraphs 42 And 44.

"42. The Decision In Om Prakash Jaiswal Case To The Effect That Initiation Of Proceedings Under Section 20 Can Only Be Said To Have Occurred When The Court Formed The Prima Facie Opinion That Contempt Has Been Committed And Issued Notice To The Contemner To Show Cause Why It Should Not Be Punished, Is Taking Too Narrow A View Of Section 20 Which Does Not Seem To Be Warranted And Is Not Only Going To Cause Hardship But Would Perpetrate Injustice. A Provision Like Section 20 Has To Be Interpreted Having Regard To The Realities Of The Situation. For Instance, In A Case Where A Contempt Of A Subordinate Court Is Committed, A Report Is Prepared Whether On An Application To Court Or Otherwise, And Reference Made By The Subordinate Court To The High Court. It Is Only Thereafter That A High Court Can Take Further Action Under Section 15. In The Process, More Often Than Not, A Period Of One Year Elapses. If The Interpretation Of Section 20 Put In Om Prakash Jaiswal Case Is Correct, It Would Mean That Notwithstanding Both The Subordinate Court And The High Court Being Prima Facie Satisfied That Contempt Has Been Committed The High Court Would Become Powerless To Take Any Action. On The Other Hand, If The Filing Of An Application Before The Subordinate Court Or The High Court, Making Of A Reference By A Subordinate Court On Its Own Motion Or The Filing Of An Application Before An Advocate General For Permission To Initiate Contempt Proceedings Is Regarded As Initiation By The Court For The Purposes Of Section 20, Then Such An Interpretation Would Not Impinge On Or Stultify The Power Of The High Court To Punish For Contempt Which Power, Dehors The Contempt Of Courts Act, 1971 Is Enshrined In Article 215 Of The Constitution. Such An Interpretation Of Section 20 Would Harmonise That Section With The Powers Of The Courts To Punish For Contempt Which Is Recognised By The Constitution".


"44. Action For Contempt Is Divisible Into Two Categories, Namely, That Initiated Suo Motu By The Court And That Instituted Otherwise Than On The Court's Own Motion. The Mode Of Initiation In Each Case Would Necessarily Be Different. While In The Case Of Suo Motu Proceedings, It Is The Court Itself Which Must Initiate By Issuing A Notice, In The Other Cases Initiation Can Only Be By A Party Filing An Application. In Our Opinion, Therefore, The Proper Construction To Be Placed On Section 20 Must Be That Action Must Be Initiated, Either By Filing Of An Application Or By The Court Issuing Notice Suo Motu, Within A Period Of One Year From The Date On Which The Contempt Is Alleged To Have Been Committed".

In View Of The Aforesaid Observations Of The Apex Court In The Above Judgment, The Action Must Be Initiated, Either By Filing An Application Or By The Court Issuing Notice, Within A Period Of One Year From The Date On Which The Contempt Is Alleged To Have Been Committed.
In The Present Case, The Contempt Application Was Filed On 17.3.2005, That Is Within A Period Of One Year From The Final Judgment Of The Court Dated 18.5.2004. The Contempt Was Alleged To Have Been Committed By The Respondents Subsequent To 18.5.2004; Hence The Application Of The Applicant-appellant Was Not Hit By Section 20 Of The Act.
In View Of The Law Laid Down In Pallav Sheth (supra), We Allow This Appeal And Set Aside The Impugned Judgment And Order Dated 1.8.2006, And Remit The Matter Back For A Fresh Consideration By The Appropriate Bench.
The Appeal Is Allowed.

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