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Vishwas Narayan Limaye Vs. Sharad Pawar - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectContempt of Court
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Application No. 234 of 1973
Judge
Reported in(1976)78BOMLR616
AppellantVishwas Narayan Limaye
RespondentSharad Pawar
Excerpt:
contempt of courts act (lxx of 1971), sections 14 and 15-whether a, private person has a right to make an application calling upon the high court to take cognizance of contempt of a court subordinate to it-whether high court can take action suo motu in a case of contempt of a court subordinate to it.;sub-section (1) of section 15 of the contempt of courts act, 1971 deals with, the contempt of the supreme court or of a high court, but not committed in its presence or within its hearing. sub-section (2) of section 15 of the act deals with the contempt of a subordinate court. in the latter case, the high court can act only on a reference to it by the subordinate court or on a motion by the advocate-general and prima facie there seems to be no third method by which the high court can take.....deshmukh, j.1. this is an application in which a private individual describing himself as a social worker moved this court for taking action under the contempt of courts act, against respondents nos. 1 to 3. respondent no. 1 is a minister of state for home, government of maharashtra. respondents nos. 2 and 3 are respectively the editor and printers and publishers of 'times of india' in which a certain speech delivered by respondent no. 1 was published. the. gist of the application is that the speech made by respondent no. 1 tends to interfere with due course of justice relating to a criminal case pending in the court of the additional chief presidency magistrate, esplanade, bombay. the criminal case relates to a riot resulting in the death of a police officer and causing of injuries to.....
Judgment:

Deshmukh, J.

1. This is an application in which a private individual describing himself as a Social Worker moved this Court for taking action under the Contempt of Courts Act, against respondents Nos. 1 to 3. Respondent No. 1 is a Minister of State for Home, Government of Maharashtra. Respondents Nos. 2 and 3 are respectively the editor and printers and publishers of 'Times of India' in which a certain speech delivered by respondent No. 1 was published. The. gist of the application is that the speech made by respondent No. 1 tends to interfere with due course of justice relating to a criminal case pending in the Court of the Additional Chief Presidency Magistrate, Esplanade, Bombay. The criminal case relates to a riot resulting in the death of a police officer and causing of injuries to several others within the compound or near about Godrej Colony, Vikhroli, Bombay.

2. A Division Bench of this Court issued rule on July 24, 1973. Today when the rule was called out for hearing the learned Advocate-General appeared for respondent No. 4, the State. He raised a preliminary objection to our entertaining this petition and hearing it on merits. Since this preliminary objection went to the root of the matter and seemed to render the present proceedings incompetent, we have heard the learned advocates on both the sides on this preliminary objection.

3. The gist of the objection raised by the learned Advocate-General is that the alleged contempt is one of a Court subordinate to this Court. In the matter of such contempt of Courts subordinate to this Court, the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (Act No. 70 of 1971) provides the manner in which cognizance could be taken by the High Court. According to him, no private person has a right to make an application calling upon this Court to take cognizance of the contempt of Court sub-ordinate to it. He also points out that on the proper interpretation of Sections 14 and 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, it is not open to the High Court to take suo motu action on its own motion in the case of a contempt of a Court subordinate to it.

4. What has happened in the present case is that a private person moved this Court by an application and after going through the application and perhaps after hearing the petitioner or his advocate at the motion hearing rule was issued. Such a rule or action could be treated either as action at the instance of and on the application of a private party or if this Court had otherwise power it could be treated as a suo motu action. Since in neither of these manners cognizance of a contempt of Court subordinate to it could be taken by the High Court, the learned Advocate-General contended that this action is misconceived and must be dropped. Shri Pungliya, the learned Counsel for the petitioner has opposed the preliminary objection and he has tried to support by bringing to our notice various provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act') that suo motu action in the matter of contempt of Court is always possible whether the contempt is in respect of this Court or a Court subordinate to it.

5. Before we consider the relevant provisions of the Act and ascertain their real meaning we would take into account the reference made by Shri Pungliya to a judgment of a Division Bench of this Court in The Bar Council of Maharashtra v. M.G. Deshpande (1973) Criminal Miscellaneous Application No. 737 of 1972, decided by Vaidya and Rege JJ., on February 28, 1973 (Unrep.). From an initial reference to this petition and judgment therein we got an impression that not only the same objection was formerly raised on behalf of the State in another petition relating to contempt of Court but it was also considered and decided by this Court. However, when we were taken through all the relevant pages of that judgment dealing with this question, we find that an objection similar to the one raised before us by the learned Advocate-General was raised by Shri C.K. Dalvi, representing the alleged contemner in that case. But it was not decided at all. In the summary of the points raised by Shri Dalvi we do find a mention of this objection. Shri Dalvi tried to tell the learned Judges that they shall not take cognizance of the alleged contempt because neither the subordinate Court had made a reference nor the Advocate-General has moved this Court as required by Sub-section (2) of Section 15 of the Act. However, the learned Judges proceeded to discuss the merits and a stage was reached when from the discussion the inclination of the Court in the matter of merits of the allegation of the contempt became known. At that stage an unconditional apology was tendered and accepted and no other technical question relating to the jurisdiction and cognizance of the offence like this was ever discussed or decided by that Court. In the circumstances it does not appear that this question has been previously decided by this Court.

6. The preliminary objection has got to be considered in the light of the provisions of the present Act viz. Act 70 of 1971. The first thing that we note about this Act is that by Section 24, it repeals the previous Contempt of Courts Act, 1952. The present Act, therefore, is the only Act in the field specifically providing for contempts which might be committed and the cognizance and punishment thereof by the High Court and the Supreme Court. In his argument the learned Advocate-General principally took us through the provisions of Sections 14 and 15 of the Act. He did not refer to the earlier sections and more particularly Sections 10 and 11 on which considerable emphasis is being laid by the learned Counsel for the petitioner. We will refer to those sections in due course.

7. In order to understand what precisely is provided by Sections 14 and 15, it may be noted that this is an Act to define and limit the powers of certain Courts in punishing contempts of Courts and to regulate their procedure in relation thereto. Clause (a) of Section 2, defines 'contempt of Court', and this clause says that contempt of Court means civil contempt or criminal contempt. Clauses (o) and (c) of Section 2 respectively define 'civil contempt' and 'criminal contempt'. The present matter before us is indisputably alleged to be a criminal contempt. Clause (c) of Section 2, defines 'criminal contempt' as under:

(c) 'criminal contempt' means the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which-

(i) scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court; or

(ii) prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding; or

(iii) interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner;

8. The allegations which are being made in the present petition would fall either under Sub-clause (ii) or (iii) quoted above. If something is done by a person which falls under any of the Sub-clauses of Clause (c) of Section 2, undoubtedly that would amount to a criminal contempt. Criminal contempt could be committed in relation to the Supreme Court, High Court or any other Court which is subordinate to the High Court. The Legislature had therefore to provide for taking cognizance of contempts which may be in relation to the Supreme Court, the High Court as also in relation to the Courts subordinate to the High Court.

9. The relevant provisions of Sections 14 and 15, which need to be interpreted are as follows:

14. Procedure where contempt is in the face of the Supreme Court or a High Court.-

(1) When it is alleged, or appears to the Supreme Court or the High Court upon its own view, that a person has been guilty of contempt committed in its presence or hearing, the Court may cause such person to be detained in custody, and, at any time before the rising of the Court, on the same day, or as early as possibly thereafter, shall-

(a) cause him to be informed in writing of the contempt with which he is charged;

(b) afford him an opportunity to make his defence to the charge;

(c) after taking such evidence as may be necessary or as may be offered by such person and after hearing him, proceed, either forthwith or after adjournment, to determine the matter of the charge;

(d) make such order for the punishment or discharge of such person as may be just....

15. Cognizance of criminal contempt in other cases.-

(1) In the case of a criminal contempt, other than a contempt referred to in Section 14, the Supreme Court or the High Court may take action on its own motion or on a motion made by-

(a) the Advocate-General, or

(b) any other person, with the consent in writing of the Advocate-General.

(2) In the case of any criminal contempt of a subordinate court, the High Court may take action on a reference made to it by the subordinate court or on a motion made by the Advocate-General or, in relation to a Union territory, by such Law Officer as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify in this behalf....

We have not quoted Sub-section (2) to (4) of Section 14 and Sub-section (3) of Section 15, as they do not seem to be relevant for the present purpose. So far as the titles given to the sections quoted above are concerned, they indicate that Section 14 is meant to provide for procedure where contempt is in the face of the Supreme Court or the High Court. The title to Section 15 indicates that it deals with a topic of taking cognizance of criminal contempt in other cases. Sub-section (1) of Section 14 deals with a case where the alleged contempt is committed or appears to the Supreme Court or the High Court that it has been committed in its presence or hearing, the Court which means either the Supreme Court or the High Court as the case may be, is authorised to cause the alleged contemner to be detained in custody and at any time before the rising of the Court on the same day or as early as possible thereafter, the Court is to cause the contemner to be informed in writing of the contempt with which he is charged. It has then to afford him an opportunity to make his defence to the charge. After taking evidence, if need be, or after recording such evidence as may be offered by such person and after hearing him the Court has to proceed, either forthwith or after adjournment to determine the matter of the charge and thereafter make such order for the punishment or discharge of such person as the case may be. Reading the provisions of Clauses (a) to (d) along with the main body of Sub-section (1), it is apparent that only one category of contempt is dealt with by Sub-section (1) of Section 14. That class of contempt or that category of contempt consists where the contempt is committed in the presence of or within the hearing of the High Court or the Supreme Court. When such contempt is committed the High Court or the Supreme Court are authorised to put the person concerned in immediate custody and detention. The subsequent procedure will then follow by first informing of the charge and then affording him sufficient opportunity of being heard. Having disposed of in this manner the method of taking cognizance as also the manner of disposal thereof in relation to the one category of cases of contempt the Legislature proceeds to provide for the cognizance of criminal contempt in other cases.

10. Shri Pungliya, the learned Counsel for the petitioner argued that Section 15 deals with all other contempts and they would include not only contempts of High Court and Supreme Court but contempts in relation to the subordinate Courts. Undoubtedly what Mr. Pungliya says has great substance if we have to consider in the first instance what is the subject-matter dealt with by Section 15. The subject-matter in the broad sense is other contempts except those for which provision has already been made in Sub-section (1) of Section 14. This means that the contempts of the High Court and the Supreme Court committed within their presence or hearing are already provided for and the Legislature now lays down the procedure of taking cognizance as well as dealing with the other contempts. All other contempts except those provided in Sub-section (1) of Section 14 may again be of two different types, one will be a contempt of the High Court or the Supreme Court and the other will be a contempt of Court subordinate to the High Court. The crucial question is how the Legislature has provided for these different types of contempts in the matter of taking their cognizance. The learned Advocate-General argued that Sub-section (1) of Section 15 only dealt with the contempt of the Supreme Court or the High Court and which contempt is different from the one already described in Sub-section (1) of Section 14.

11. The opening clause of Sub-section (1) of Section 15 of the Act lays down that, 'In the case of a criminal contempt, other than a contempt referred to in Section 14,... '. Thereafter follow the provision that the Supreme Court or the High Court may take action. The interpretation which the learned Advocate-General wants us to accept is that the contempt now being dealt with by the Legislature in Sub-section (1) of Section 15 is only the contempt of the High Court or the Supreme Court. But it is not a contempt committed within its hearing or within its sight, i.e. presence. In the case of such contempts the cognizance could be taken by the High Court or the Supreme Court in three different manners. The High Court or the Supreme Court on its own motion could take cognizance of such a contempt if it comes to its notice and if the Court thinks that what has come to its notice prima facie amounts to a contempt in respect of which some action is necessary; the second manner in which cognizance of such contempt of High Court or Supreme Court could be taken is on the motion made to the Court concerned by the Advocate-General. There is also a third manner provided where neither the Court takes suo motu action nor is the Advocate-General moving but a private person thinks that here is a contempt of the High Court or the Supreme Court which requires to be dealt with firmly by either of those Courts. A citizen who thinks that in the interest of proper administration of justice he must bring particular incident to the notice of the Court for taking action can apply in the first instance to the Advocate-General and satisfy him that action is called for. If the Advocate-General is satisfied he may act under Clause (a) of Section 15(1) and himself make a motion in Court or he may give his consent to the person concerned to move the appropriate Court for taking action. These three methods seem to be available for taking cognizance of a criminal contempt of a High Court or the Supreme Court under the provisions of Sub-section (1) of Section 15.

12. It is then argued that having dealt with in this manner with regard to the contempts of the Supreme Court or the High Court whether committed within the presence or hearing of those Courts or without the presence or hearing of those Courts, the Legislature now proceeds to lay down the method of taking cognizance relating to criminal contempts of Courts subordinate to the High Court. Sub-section (2) of Section 15 of the Act lays down that in the case of any criminal contempt of a subordinate Court, the High Court may take action on a reference made to it, (i) by the subordinate Court; or (ii) on a motion made by the Advocate-General. The same sub-section further provides that in the case of Union territory in the place of Advocate-General motion shall be made by such law officer as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette,, specify in that behalf. On a plain reading of Sub-section (2) of Section 15 at least, it is clear that for taking cognizance of criminal contempt of a subordinate Court, the only authority that could be moved is High Court and the High Court could be moved in one of the two modes provided and no other. The first is the report of the subordinate Court and the other is a motion made by tin: Advocate-General or the appropriate law officer where Union territory is concerned. It therefore appears that in relation to a criminal contempt of a subordinate Court the High Court does not seem to have been authorised to act on its own motion much less it is possible for a private person to apply to this Court and obtain rule at his instance.

13. Mr. Pungliya, the learned Counsel for the petitioner says that this is putting too narrow an interpretation on the provisions of Section 15(1) of the Act. The very opening clause of Sub-section (1) of Section 15 shows that the Legislature was dealing with all other criminal contempts other than the one provided in Section 14. In other words, every other contempt including the contempt of the subordinate Court must fall within the sweep of Sub-section (1) of Section 15. Though prima facie the argument of Shri Pungliya seems to be attractive on a closer examination of the provisions of Sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 15 of the Act, we are inclined to hold that that could not be the meaning which could be attributed to the opening clause of Sub-section (7) of Section 15. We have no doubt and to the limited extent we are in agreement with Mr. Pungliya that Section 15 as a whole provides for contempts other than the one described in Section 14. However, the scheme of Section 15 read as a whole and more particularly the two sub-sections which we have quoted above, indicate that contempts other than those described in Section 14 have been further sub-divided by the Legislature in two sub-categories and for each one of them a separate provision is made. Of the genera] category of other contempts one sub-category is contempt of the Supreme Court or of the High Court, but not committed within their presence or hearing. The other sub-category is contempts of a subordinate Court. Sub-section (1) of Section 15 provides for the first sub-category of contempts of Supreme Court or High Court not committed within their 'presence or hearing. Sub-section (2) of Section 15 provides for the taking of cognizance of the other sub-category of criminal contempt of a subordinate Court.

14. So far as Sub-section (2) of Section 15 is concerned, it appears that the High Court can act only on a reference to it by the subordinate Court or on a motion by the Advocate-General and prima facie there seems to be no third method by which the High Court would take cognizance of a contempt of a subordinate Court.

15. When we proceed to consider the approach of Shri Pungliya we find that his interpretation would create a conflict between the provisions of Sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 15 and would also lead to the conclusion that a part of Sub-section (2) of Section 15 is redundant. It will also lead to the conclusion that the Legislature had made provision twice requiring the Advocate-General to move the High Court in respect of the various contempts dealt with in Sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 15. To take the argument of Shri Pungliya to the logical end it would mean that Sub-section (1) deals with all contempts except than those provided in Section 14. We will now test his argument by assuming that Sub-section (1) of Section 15 also contemplates the contempts relating to the subordinate Court. On this approach if a contempt is committed of a subordinate Court and if that contempt falls under Sub-section (7) of Section 15, the cognizance of such a contempt could be taken by the High Court on its own motion or on the motion of an Advocate-General or on the motion of any other person, with the consent in writing of the Advocate General. The first difficulty which faces us is to consider the propriety of providing for Sub-section (2) at all in Section 15. If the contempt of a subordinate Court is already covered by Sub-section (1) of Section 15, why had the Legislature again laid down an independent subjection dealing with the contempt of the subordinate Court. Is Sub-section (2) redundant? If an Advocate-General can and must act under Sub-section (1), in the ease of a contempt of subordinate Court why is he again asked by the Legislature to act under Sub-section (2), in relation to the same contempt namely, a contempt of a subordinate. Court. The only additional provision in Sub-section (2) which we find is making of a report by the subordinate Court itself. If the Legislature merely wanted to provide for a report being made or a reference being made by the subordinate Court, Sub-section (2) could have been very, differently worded. Sub-section (2) could have been possibly something like this: '(2) In the case of any criminal contempt of a subordinate Court, the High Court may take action also on a reference made to it by the subordinate Court.' That should be the end of Sub-section (2). However, this does not seem to be either the plain meaning or the intention of the Legislature as is apparent from the two sub-sections. In interpreting statute it is not to be assumed that any part of it is redundant. The Courts must interpret and give meaning to every part of the statute and where some real or apparent conflict is discovered a harmonious construction has got to be made. However, on a proper approach to the real meaning of the opening clause of Sub-section (1) of Section (15), we do not think that the present case calls for the aid of any of the principles which we enumerated above. Since two separate sub-sections are devised by the Legislature the subject-matter of each sub-section is obviously different. A mere look at Sub-section (2) will show that only one category of contempt is being provided for viz. the contempt of subordinate Court. Section 14 provided for contempts of the Supreme Court and the High Court within their presence and hearing. Sub-section (2) of Section 15, as we stated above provides for a contempt of a subordinate Court. What now survives is a third, category of contempts which we have described earlier in this judgment as the first sub-category of the remaining classes of contempt namely, the contempt of the Supreme Court or the High Court but without their presence or hearing.

16. We will now refer to the opening clause of Sub-section (1) of Section 15. It shows that 'in the ease of a criminal contempt other than a contempt referred to in Section 14,... '. What is the contempt referred to in Section 14? The entire section is devoted to the contempts of the Supreme Court and the High Court alone and that section has nothing to do with the contempts of Courts subordinate to the High Court. Then again the contempt of Sub-section (1) of Section 14 makes it amply clear that out of the contempts relating to the Supreme Court and the High Court only one type of contempt is being contemplated namely a contempt committed in the presence or hearing of the High Court or the Supreme Court. The opening words, referred to above, from the opening clause of Sub-section (1) of Section 15, deal with the other class of contempts relating to High Court and the Supreme Court but not committed within their presence or hearing'. In this manner, the words, 'a contempt' referred to in Section 14, means primarily a contempt of the Supreme Court or the High Court and they also mean a contempt within their presence or hearing. For other contempts of the Supreme Court and the High Court, Sub-section (1) of Section 15 provides the method of taking cognizance by the Supreme Court or the High Court as the ease may be. Sub-section (1) of Section 15, therefore, refers to both the Supreme Court and the High Court whereas Sub-section (3) of Section 15 deals with the taking of cognizance by the High Court alone because all other Courts are subordinate to the High Court, under the Constitution. It is, therefore, clear to us that this interpretation is not only logical but is consistent with the plain meaning of the language of Sub-section (1) of Section 15. It is also consistent with the total scheme of providing remedies regarding contempts committed in relation to High Court and the Supreme Court within the presence and hearing and without the presence and hearing as also contempts in relation to subordinate Courts.

17. It would be now appropriate to consider the argument of Shri Pungliya that such an interpretation could be made only if the provisions of Sections 10 and 11 are ignored. Section 10 whose provisions must be principally considered in relation to this argument, is as follows:

10. Power of High Court to punish contempts of subordinate courts.-

Every High Court shall have and exercise the same jurisdiction, powers and authority, in accordance with the same procedure and practice, in respect of contempts of courts subordinate to it as it has and exercises in respect of contempts of itself:Provided that no High Court shall take cognizance of a contempt alleged to have been committed in respect of a court subordinate to it where such contempt is an offence punishable under the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

18. It is not necessary to quote Section 11, because it merely deals with the jurisdiction of the High Court to take cognizance and punish contempts of itself and Courts subordinate to it whether they are committed within or outside the jurisdiction of the High Court and whether the person alleged to be guilty is within or without such limits. In a sense it gives extra territorial jurisdiction to the High Court provided the contempt is committed in relation to itself or a Court subordinate to it. We fail to understand how Section 10 could be read to control the provisions of Sections 14 and 15, which deal with the taking of cognizance of contempt.

19. It may be noted that this new Act -is an exhaustive piece of legislation. Section 15 deals with cognizance of criminal contempt whereas Section 17 lays down the procedure after cognizance. Section 18 deals with hearing of cases of criminal contempt etc. It therefore appears that the provisions from Section 17 onwards would come into operation only when a proper cognizance has been taken by the High Court of an alleged contempt. Section 10 merely lays down that the High Court shall have and exercise the same jurisdiction, the same powers and authority as also conduct the proceedings before it in accordance with the same procedure and practice in respect of contempt of Courts subordinate to it as it has and exercises in respect of contempts of itself. This section merely declares the powers of the High Court as also the manner of exercising it. The jurisdiction, powers and authority and the procedure in relation to and contempt of a subordinate Court, is the same as in respect of the contempts of itself. This section does not at all touch the subject of taking cognizance. It merely lays down the powers of the High Court, in respect of the contempt of subordinate Courts. Once proper cognizance is taken the jurisdiction to deal with it will be the same as if it were a contempt of itself. The power and authority will also be the same and the procedure to he applied will also be the same. We, therefore, do not think that Section 10 can be of any assistance in interpreting the provisions of Section 14 or Section 15 of the Act.

20. We may now refer to the provisions of Section 22 of the Act on which some reliance was sought to be placed by Shri Pungliya. In this section it is laid down that the provisions of this Act shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of, the provisions of any other law relating to contempt of Courts. The first important thing that must be noted in regard to this section is that it saves, 'the provisions of any other law' relating to contempt and points out that the present Act shall be in addition thereto and not in derogation thereto. There are instances of contempts which are provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Even a witness who does not produce a document though summoned is liable to be punished by way of contempt by the Court itself. At best it means that such a statutory provision of law which otherwise provides for taking cognizance and punishing contempts are not at all affected by the present Act. On the contrary the present Act is in addition to those provisions. So far as the query relevant to our investigation is concerned we asked Shri Pungliya to point out which are the provisions of any other law which permit the High Court to take cognizance on its own motion in relation to a contempt of a subordinate Court. If there were any or if there are any we have no doubt that those must be deemed to have been specifically saved by the provisions of Section 22. If under those provisions this Court could make motion on its own, it will be called upon to dispose of that rule on merits. We must note that Shri Pungliya was not able to point out any provision of any law which enables the High Court to take cognizance of a contempt of a subordinate Court otherwise than through the provision of Section 15 of the present Act.

21. We thus uphold the preliminary objection of the learned Advocate-General. The result that follows is that the rule has been erroneously issued and without jurisdiction. We therefore discharge this rule. In the circumstances of the case, there will be no order as to costs.


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