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Monoharlal Vs. Sri Prem Shankar Tandon and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal;Contempt of Court
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Misc. No. 857 of 1957
Judge
Reported inAIR1960All231; 1960CriLJ442
ActsContempt of Courts Act, 1952 - Sections 3; Evidence Act, 1872 - Sections 114; Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1951 - Sections 29; Tenancy Law; Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Rules, 1951 - Rule 52; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) - Sections 151
AppellantMonoharlal
RespondentSri Prem Shankar Tandon and ors.
Appellant AdvocateB.K. Dhaon, ;M.L. Trivedi and ;Shiv Govind Tripathi, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateStanding Counsel, ;Mahabir Prasad Srivastava, ;Umesh Chandra Srivastava and ;Shailendra Misra, Advs.
DispositionApplication dismissed
Excerpt:
(i) contempt of court - types of contempt - section 3 of contempt of courts act, 1952 - two types of contempt - criminal and civil - civil contempt mean the intentional defiance of the orders of a court - proceedings against civil contempt take the nature of criminal case. (ii) scope of courts in contempt proceedings - section 3 of contempt of courts act, 1952 - care should be taken by courts in punishing persons under the act - punishment should be inflicted only if the injury due to defiance is grave in nature. (iii) contempt by compensation officer - section 3 of contempt of courts act, 1952, section 29 of u. p. zamindari abolition and land reforms act, 1951 and rule 52 of u. p. zamindari abolition and land reforms rules, 1951 - interim compensation paid by compensation officer - no.....v.d. bhargava, j. 1. this is an application for taking proceedings for contempt of court. the application purported to be under sections 2 and 3 of act xii of 1926 which actually has been repealed and replaced by act xxxii of 1952.2. the facts of the case are that there was one munshi ram sewak who died on 3-5-1910, he was succeeded by his widow srimati sukhraj kuer who was recorded in the khewat as his successor. she adopted satgur prasad, opposite party no. 5, as a son to her husband and on 5th november, 1919, executed a deed of adoption in his favour. after the execution of this deed satgur prasad was recorded in the khewat in the year 1920. manohar lal (applicant no. 1), manna lal, bachchu lal, ganga prasad and raj narain who were the next reversioners of munshi ram sewak considered.....
Judgment:

V.D. Bhargava, J.

1. This is an application for taking proceedings for contempt of court. The application purported to be under Sections 2 and 3 of Act XII of 1926 which actually has been repealed and replaced by Act XXXII of 1952.

2. The facts of the case are that there was one Munshi Ram Sewak who died on 3-5-1910, He was succeeded by his widow Srimati Sukhraj Kuer who was recorded in the khewat as his successor. She adopted Satgur Prasad, opposite party No. 5, as a son to her husband and on 5th November, 1919, executed a deed of adoption in his favour. After the execution of this deed Satgur Prasad was recorded in the khewat in the year 1920. Manohar Lal (applicant No. 1), Manna Lal, Bachchu Lal, Ganga Prasad and Raj Narain who were the next reversioners of Munshi Ram Sewak considered the adoption of Satgur Prasad as illegal and prejudicial to their interests and, therefore, they brought a suit No. 103 of 1925 in the Court of the Civil Judge, Rae Bareli, inter alia, against Srimati Sukhraj Kuer and Satgur Prasad.

The suit was decided by a compromise dated the 6th May, 1926, which provided that Satgur Prasad was to remain in proprietary possession of eight annas share in village Hirhin ana he gave up all his rights with respect to the remaining eight annas share in favour of Manohar Lal and others but it was provided that that share would be delivered to the plaintiffs by Satgur Prasad after the death of Srimati Sukhraj Kuer without the necessity of any suit.

During the lifetime of Srimati Sukhraj Kuer the plaintiffs were to get Rs. 600/- per annum out of the profits of the village concerned and there was a charge created for this amount. This arrangement continued till the time the zamindari was abolished, when Srimati Sukhraj Kuer was alive.

3. A draft compensation assessment roll was prepared in the name of Satgur Prasad alone as it was his name alone which was entered in the revenue papers. A notification under Section 47 of the Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act was issued on 28-3-1953 and was published in the U. P. Gazette calling for objections within two months. On the 15th April, 1953 objections were filed by Kunwar Bahadur, Shamsher Bahadur and Jang Bahadur, sons of Raj Narain who was one of the plaintiffs in the suit of 1925.

On the 16th of May, 1953, Manna Lal, Manohar Lal, Kaushal Kishore and Kali Prakash, sons of Bachchu Lal, and Luxmi Narain, son of Ganga Prasad filed objection. Satgur-Prasad had applied for an interim compensation and, therefore, on the 8th June, 1953, Luxmi Narain moved another application to the effect that in spite of the objections Satgur Prasad had applied for payment of interim compensation and in view of the objections the same should be withheld. On the 5th June, 1953 a sum of Rs. 967/8/- had already been paid to Satgur Prasad.

On the 2nd July, 1953 Luxmi Narain moved another application that that payment had wrongly been made and it was said that opposite party No. 3, Jagannath Prasad, who was Satgur Prasad's wife's brother, appeared to be prejudicing the inte-rest of the objector and a prayer was made that Satgur Prasad had applied for payment of interim compensation paid to him for Kharif 1360 Fasli, or in the alternative, he should be asked to furnish security as required under Section 29(2) of the Zamin-dari Abolition and Land Reforms Act.

The Compensation Officer directed the Compensation Naib Tahsildar to submit a report by the 15th July, 1953. On the 30th September, 1953, it is said that Satgur Prasad entered into a compromise with the objectors and admitted their claim to the extent of half compensation of village Hirhin and it appears that no action was taken on Luxmi Narain's application. Therefore on 9-4-1954 Jang Bahadur applied to Compensation Officer reiterating that Jagannath Prasad had deliberately suppressed his objections filed on 15-4-1953 and 16-5-1953.

4. The Compensation Officer passed an order On the 8th May, 1954, to the following effect :

'Heard the parties. While the parties have agreed that the applicants are the owners of 1/2 share in V. Hirhin, the rights of complete ownership with possession are, according to the terms of the compromise deed, to accrue to them only after the death of Mst. Sukhraj Kuer and that during her life-time they are entitled merely to an annuity of Rs. 600/-. This is a curious position. The applicants had not yet come on the khewat as proprietors of the stipulated share.

'I am of opinion that payment of compensation be withheld completely and the parties bedirected to get their claims thereto settled by theCivil Court. In case the applicants do not seektheir remedy in Civil Courts within three monthsthe roll in favour of Satgur Prasad shall be madefinal.Inform.

Sd/- V. P Sharma.

8-5-1954.'

5. On the 6th August, 1954, civil suit No. 7 of 1954 was filed by the applicant along with others for a declaration that they are entitled to the compensation money and rehabilitation grant in respect of their eight annas share in village Hirhin. On the same date he informed the Compensation Officer regarding' the institution of the suit but no stay order was obtained from the civil court. The Compensation Officer directed the Compensation Naib Tahsildar to submit a report. On the 10th August, 1954 Satgur Prasad made an application which is marked as Ex. 4 in the papers filed by the applicant and in this application it was mentioned that the compensation had been stopped for a period of three months and since the period of three months had expired and the applicant was in need of money to pay taqawi and land revenue, therefore, interim compensation for Rabi 1360 Fasli and Kharif and Rabi 1361 Fasli to be paid to him.

On that there was a report made by Sri Jagannath Prasad, opposite party No. 3, to the effect that no stay order had been obtained from the civil court even though three months had elapsed and he suggested that Satgur Prasad was entitled to Rs. 1,783/- as prayed. Sri R. C. Muir who was then the Compensation Officer approved the report and directed payment of Rs. 1,783/- to Satgur Prasad and it was paid on the same day. On the 23rd August, 1954 the Compensation Officer on the report of Z.A.C. Naib Tahsildar ordered that the finalisation of the compensation roll be stayed and Jang Bahadur was directed to bring a stay order from the civil court within twenty days.

On the 25th August, 1954 Luxmi Narain, one of the plaintiffs of suit No. 7 of 1954 moved anapplication for interim injunction and on the 26th of August, 1954 the District Judge stayed payment of compensation till the disposal of the said application. The order was passed by the District Judge on behalf of the Civil Judge as the Court was in abeyance at that time. An intimation of the above order was sent to the Compensation Officer whereby he was directed to stay payment of Compensation to defendant No. 2 until further orders of the court.

6. This order was received in the compensation office on the 27th August, 1954. As the preparation of the compensation roll was not stayed and only payment of compensation was stayed it appears that the proceedings of the preparation of the compensation assessment rolls continued and they were finalised on the 25th of January, 1955.

7. On the 23rd March, 1955, Satgur Prasad applied for adjustment of taqawi dues amounting to Rs. 340/9/-. That application was allowed by Sri P. S. Tandon who directed that Rs. 340/9/- be paid by transfer from the compensation to taqawi dues under Act XII.

8. On 11-5-1955 the temporary Civil and Sessions Judge on behalf of the Civil Judge finally disposed of the application for injunction in suit No. 7 of 1954 in accordance with the agreement of the parties and the Compensation Officer Rae Bareli, by a letter of that date was informed that half of the compensation of village Hirhin, Pargana Rae Bareli, may be paid to Satgur Prasad, defendant No. 2, as agreed upon by the parties and he was directed to withhold payment of the remaining half until further orders.

9. On 17-8-1955 Satgur Prasad again applied for interim compensation for 1362 Fasli and on the 18th August, 1955, Jagannath Prasad, opposite party No, 3, submitted a report that a sum of Rs. 1,935 could be paid to Satgur Prasad. This report was approved by Sri P. S. Tandon opposite party No. 1. On the same day the sum of Rs. 4,935 was paid to Satgur Prasad. Thus in all Rs. 4,685/8/,-was paid as interim compensation. On 22-8-1956, a further sum of Rs. 244/4/3 was paid as interest to Satgur Prasad on the interim compensation. Thus the total amount came to Rs. 4,929/12/3.

10. On 7-8-1956, a notice was issued by opposite party No. 1, Sri P. S. Tandon to Satgur Prasad informing him that bonds for Rs. 15,350/- had been prepared and that he should appear on 27-8-1956. Satgur Prasad appeared earlier on the 22nd August, 1956 and took bonds for Rs. 5,150/-and cash of Rs. 17/12/-. Bonds worth Rs. 10,200/-were kept by the Compensation Officer and were sent to the Court of the Civil Judge in accordance with the order issued by that Court. The suit was finally disposed of in favour o the plaintiffs on 25-10-1956.

11. The grounds upon which the petitioner has filed this petition for taking contempt proceedings are as follows:

(1) That in spite of the institution of a civil suit as directed by the Compensation Officer on 8-5-1954 and complete stoppage of the payment of compensation interim compensation amounting to Rs. 1,783/- was paid to Satgur Prasad on 16-8-1954.

(2) That in defiance of the stay order on 26-8-1954 a sum of Rs. 340/9/- was adjusted on account of Taqawi dues of opposite party No. 5 with the active help and co-operation of opposite party No 3 on 28-3-1955.

(3) That on 18-8-1955 a sum of Rs. 1,935/-was paid to opposite party No. 5 on account of in-terim compensation of 1362 Fasli in respect of the whole village with the active help and co-operation of opposite party Nos. 1 and 3 and lastly,

(4) a sum of Rs. 244/4/3 was paid on 22-8-1956 to opposite party No. 5 with the help and connivance of opposite party No. 3.

12. On the above grounds it was prayed that this Hon'ble Court be pleased to send for the record of the Civil Judge and after inquiry punish the opposite parties for contempt.

13. There were five opposite parties in the case, viz. Sri Prem Shankar Tandon, Compensation Officer, Sri Jagdish Narain, Z. A. C. Naib Tahsildar, Sri Jagannath Prasad, Senior Departmental Clerk, Compensation Office, Sri Suresh Kumar, an employee in the Compensation Office and who is the son of Satgur Prasad, and Satgur Prasad in whose favour the assessment rolls had been prepared.

14. Before dealing with the case it should be borne in mind that there are two classes of contempt, viz. (1) a criminal contempt and (2) a civil contempt.

15. In the well-known case of In the matter of Moti Lal Chose, ILR 45 Cal 169 at p. 240: (AIR 1918 Cal 988 at p. 1017 (SB)), Sir Asutosh Mookerjee J., had remarked as follows:

'I had occasion to examine fully the distinction between a criminal and a civil contempt which 3s of a fundamental character. A criminal complaint is conduct that is directed against the dignity and authority of the Court. A civil contempt on the other hand, is failure to do something ordered to be done by a Court in a civil action for the benefit of the opposite party therein. Consequently in the case of a criminal contempt, the proceeding is for punishment of an act committed against the majesty of the Law, and, as the primary purpose of the punishment is the vindication of the public authority, the proceedings conform, as nearly as possible, to proceedings in criminal cases. In the case of civil contempt, on the other hand, the proceeding in its initial stages at least when the purpose is merely to secure compliance with a judicial order made for the benefit of a litigant, may be deemed instituted at the instance of the party interested and thus to possess a civil character.'

Thus civil contempts are acts and omissions in procedure involving a private injury by the disobedience of the judgment, order or other process of the Court. It is failure of a certain Court or person to obey the order of the Court.

16. A civil contempt has been very well defined in the case of O'Shea v. O'Shea and Parnell, (1890) 15 P. D. 59-

'When a man does not obey an order of the Court made to some civil proceeding, to do or abstain from doing something -- as where an injunction is granted in an action against a defendant, and he does not perform what he is ordered to perform, and then a motion is made to commit him for contempt -- that is really only a procedure to get something done in the action, and has nothing of a criminal nature in it.'

It is true that even a civil contempt, when proceedings are taken under the Contempt of Courts Act, assumes a quasi-criminal nature; but there arc certain principles which have to be borne in mind in considering the cases of civil contempt, which is different from a criminal contempt. In a civil contempt disobedience, in order to be punishable as a contempt, must be wilful and not merely casual, accidental and unintentional. It was held in P. S.Tuljaram Rao v. Governor of Reserve Bank of India, AIR 1939 Mad 257 (SB):

'The power to commit for contempt of Court is not to be lightly used and should be reserved for cases where the contempt is deliberate and of such a nature that committal is called for.'

17. Another fact which has to be considered is that contempt proceedings are of an extraordinary nature and they give special power to all the Courts of record. It is a power which is exercised summarily and the Court should be reluctant to exercise this extraordinary power particularly in a civil contempt, and this power should never be exercised if the offence complained of is of a slight or trifling nature and does not cause any substantial loss or prejudice to the complainant. This power should be exercised with scrupulous care and only when the case is clear and beyond reasonable doubt. See Emperor v. Murli Manohar Prasad, AIR 1929 Pat 72 (FB) and In the matter of Muslim Outlook, Lahore, AIR 1927 Lah 610 (SB).

18. We should also bear in mind that so far as Prem Shanker Tandon, opposite party No. 1 is concerned, he is Compensation Officer and his actions would be presumed to have been regularly performed under illustration (e) of Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act. In the case of breach of an order of the Court, if it is done by a private person, apparently to gain some unlawful advantage, the presumption would be that, that infringement or disobedience was wilful, but we think in the case of an official, if he commits a certain disobedience, there would be a presumption in his favour, that he had in the ordinary circumstances, done it bona tide and unintentionally.

This presumption is not irrebuttable, and, if there are circumstances to show that the official was not acting bona fide, then his action could be treated as wilful.

19. Coming to the grounds on which the petitioner wants proceedings for contempt to be taken, the first one is about the payment of Rs. 1,783/-on 16-8-1954. The complaint of the petitioner is that in spite of the institution of suit this payment had been made. We do not think, that the mere institution of the suit, in any way amounted to a (Stay of further proceedings. Wherever the Legislature has desired that by mere institution of a suit or by filing of an appeal or by continuing any other proceedings certain, other proceedings are to take effect, it has clearly said so under Section 475, Criminal P. C., in Sub-section (3) it is provided:

'(3) Where it is brought to the notice of such Magistrate or of any other Magistrate to whom the case may have been transferred that an appeal is pending against the decision arrived at in the judicial proceeding out of which the matter has arisen, he may, if he thinks fit, at any stage adjourn the hearing of the case until such appeal is decided.'

Under this provision it is merely on bringing to the notice of the Magistrate that proceedings are required to be stayed. Similarly in the Court-fees Act as amended by U. P., an appeal is provided under Section 6A. Sub-section (2) of that section provides:

'In case an appeal is filed under Sub-section (1), and the plaintiff does not make good the deficiency, all proceedings in the suit shall be stayed and all interim orders made, including an order granting an injunction or appointing a receiver shall be discharged.'

If an appeal under Section 6-A is filed by the plaintiff, then in that case merely on receiving informationthat an appeal had been filed, the Court will stay further proceedings. There are many other legislations where such provisions have been made but in the Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, it is not provided that by merely filing a suit all proceedings shall be deemed to have been stayed and the compensation shall not be paid.

On the contrary, there is a specific section, viz. S, 70, which provides that an order has to be obtained from the Court in which the case is pending directing the Compensation Officer to place at the disposal of the Court the amount so payable. Therefore, the payment of Rs. 1,783/- before any stay order, could not be said to be in deliance of an order of the Court. It was argued that this payment had been made with the connivance of Jagannath Prasad, who is brother-in-law of Satgur Prasad.

But if Jagannath Prasad could legally do it, he does not appear to have committed any illegality or irregularity, much less anything which amounts to contempt.

20. As regards the payment of Rs. 1,935/- on 18-8-1955 and payment of Rs. 244/4/3 on 22-8-1956, it had been contended that they at least had been paid after the order of stay and in any event, they had been paid in defiance of the statutory rules made under the U. P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act. While giving details of facts it has already been pointed out that on the 11th May, 1955, the Civil Judge had in fact withdrawn the stay order qua a half the share of Satgur Prasad.

The Compensation Officer was informed by the Civil Judge that half of the compensation may be paid to Satgur Prasad, defendant No. 2, as agreed upon by the parties. Therefore, if the payments, which had been made to Satgur Prasad, did not exceed half the total compensation amount, no defiance of the order could be said to have been committed.

21. It was argued that the compensation in cash should not have been paid, which has prejudiced the parties. The order sent by the Court on 11-5-1955, did not in any way prescribe the mode of payment. Moreover, the petitioners were only reversioners and they were entitled to the property after the death of Srimati Sukhraj Kunwar. It is not known whether she is alive or dead but in any event, their interest was in the nature of a deferred interest. Bonds of the value of balf the amount had been sent to the Court and, therefore, the Court dill not commit any contempt and that it acted strictly within the order.

22. It was argued that under Section 29 (2) and Rule 52 framed under the U. P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, the payment could not have been made by the Compensation Officer without taking proper security, because the right and title to the estate was in dispute. Section 29 (2) reads as follows:

'29 (2) Where the right and title in any estate or part thereof is claimed by any person, the interim compensation in respect of such estate or part shall be paid to the person in actual possession of the estate and whose name is entered in the khe-wat as proprietor subject to such orders as are passed by the Compensation Officer with regard to security for the refund of such compensation or part thereof to which the objector may ultimately be entitled.'

Rule 52 similarly directs that in such cases where the right or title is in dispute the payment of interim compensation shall be paid but the Compensation Officer in all such cases require the applicant to furnish security either by himself or through sureties, the value of his security not being less than 1 1/2 time the amount of the interim compensation to be paid, and shall have the bond in Z. A. Form 30 or 31 executed.

23. These two amounts were of interim compensation and could only be paid to the person in actual possession of the estate, i. e. to Satgur Prasad by virtue of Section 29 as well as by virtue of Rule 52, and the only condition, that the Compensation Officer was required to comply with, was that he was to require the applicant to furnish security either by himself or through sureties. Even if this amount had been paid without security or sureties it would not amount to contempt.

The Compensation Officer may not have followed the law but by no stretch of the language it could be said that any contempt had been committed. As a matter of fact, as regards the payments made as interim compensation, surety bonds had been got executed and they are on the record. This argument of the learned Counsel for the petitioner had proceeded entirely from a mistaken idea of the facts. Therefore, no objection could be taken to these payments and no contempt has been committed in respect thereof.

24. The second point which is being taken was about the payment of Rs. 340/9/- on 28-3-1955 in adjustment of taqawi dues. On behalf of the petitioner it was alleged that this order at least had been passed when a stay order was existing and that the payment was in defiance of the order of the Civil Judge and, therefore, it amounted to contempt. On behalf of Sri P. S. Tondon it has been alleged that this amount had been directed to be adjusted and was actually paid under the provisions of law, i. e., under the U. P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act.

It was contended that dues to the Government arc the first charge on the compensation money and, therefore, they had got to be paid out of it and that the amount that had been alleged to have been paid was really adjusted under the law. It was further contended that he never intended to disobey the orders mentioned in the application or to commit contempt of court and had acted bona fide and in good faith in the discharge of his duties.

25. The order that had been passed was an interim order, which had been vacated later on. It is true that only half the share was in dispute and the ex parte ad interim order for non-payment should have been only qua half the share, even if by mistake that order had been passed, it would have been much better for the Compensation Officer, even if it was adjustment of Government dues, to obtain permission of the Court to adjust the amount and there would have been no difficulty in obtaining that order and that would have been strictly in accordance with law.

26. There was a very similar case before this Court, viz., Surendra Nath v. A. R. Sinclair Day : AIR1950All285 , and the Court refused to issue notice on such an infringement. There also it was an ad interim injunction which was later on vacated which was said to have been violated. The observations of the Court might be quoted below:

'This Court would entertain an application for contempt only, if it is of opinion that it is in the larger interest of the administration of justice that such an application should be entertained. A large number of applications for taking proceedings for contempt have been coming up for orders beforeme during the last few weeks, and I want to make it clear that a writ of contempt is not one of the reliefs that is given to a private party for the vindication of his private rights.

He has got his other remedies. Proceedings for contempt should be taken only in cases, where a Court is satisfied that something has been done, which it is necessary in the larger interests of the administration of justice, that the Court should take notice of. If the trial of a case has been interfered with, or if an atmosphere has been attempted to be created when a case cannot be properly tried, for example, when witnesses are intimidated or coerced or other influences are brought to bear either on the parties or on the witnesses, or when orders of the Court had been deliberately disobeyed, or when something is said or done, which is likely to lower the prestige of the Court, or shake the confidence of the public in the administration of justice the Court should not overlook such acts.

But where the order issued is a doubtful order, where the order itself has been vacated and where it cannot be said that there is deliberate disobedience of the order, simply because a party consideres that he has been aggrieved by some action which he considers high-handed, it would not be proper to issue a notice for contempt to show cause.'

We respectfully agree entirely with the observations of the learned Chief Justice in that case and we think that the present case is also one of those cases which this Court should not take notice of.

27. It has already been said that the action of Sri P. S. Tandon was not a wilful or deliberate one and we would be justified to presume that he acted bona fide. In the circumstances there would be no contempt. But even if for the sake of argument we were to accept that he had failed to establish that his action was bona fide he would be entitled to the benefit of doubt.

28. Contempt proceedings, though not criminal, are of a quasi-criminal nature and, therefore, where there is a reasonable doubt, the person charged with contempt is entitled to the benefit of doubt. This has been so held in numerous cases, inter alia, by our Court in Sheoraj v. A. P. Batra : AIR1955All638 and by a Special Bench of the Lahore High Court in Homi Rustomji v. Sub-Inspector Baig, AIR 1944 Lah 196.

29. There is another circumstance worth considering. An application under Section 151, C. P. C., for taking proceedings for contempt was moved by the petitioner also before the Civil Judge, whose contempt is alleged to have been committed. That Court itself in a very detailed judgment had considered that there was no contempt of that Court. After a finding by the Court (whose contempt is alleged to have been committed) that no contempt has been committed, it would be in very extreme and rare cases that this Court would even entertain an application for contempt.

30. Considering all the facts we are of the opinion that no contempt has been committed in this case and the application is accordingly dismissed. The applicant shall pay a sum of Rs. 80/- to the Government Advocate. As opposite party No. 1 had not been judicious enough to obtain an order from the civil court regarding making payment of Rs. 340/9/- and he had acted probably on the advice of opposite parties Nos. 3 and 4 and made payment to opposite party No. 5, we would deprive them of their costs, and, therefore, though the application is dismissed, no order as to costs of the opposite parties is made.


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