Skip to content

Vijai Pratap Singh Vs. Ajit Prasad and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectContempt of Court
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Misc. Contempt Appln. No. 76 of 1964
Reported inAIR1966All305; 1966CriLJ632
ActsConstitution of India - Article 361(2); Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) ; Contempt of Courts Act, 1952 - Sections 1, 2 and 4
AppellantVijai Pratap Singh
RespondentAjit Prasad and ors.
Appellant AdvocateBir Bhadra Pratap Singh, Adv.;N.C. Upadhya, Addl. Govt. Adv.
Respondent AdvocateShanti Bhushan, ;K.L. Grover, ;G.C. Bhattacharya and ;Jagish Swarup, Advs.
(i) contempt of courts - privileges - article 361(2) of constitution of india - nature of contempt proceedings - criminal - exemption - held, governor is exempted. (ii) suit for declaration - sections 1, 2 and 4 of contempt of court's act, 1952 - election to congress organisation bodies void due to alleged irregularities - opposite party expelled the plaintiff for having gone to court of law - threat to the plaintiff restraining them to go court of law - held, defendant to guilty of contempt. - - it was clearly set out that such matters should not be taken to law courts. the distinction between civil contempt and criminal contempt is well known. that is clearly a contempt of court of a criminal nature. --the object of the application was to obtain the punishment of the appellant .i am.....ordergyanendra kumar, j.1. the petitioner, v. p. singh, is an advocate practising at azamgarh, opposite party no. 1, shri ajit prasad jain was erstwhile president of the u. p. congress committee, while opposite party no. 2, govind sahai is the general secretary of the u. p. congress committee. opposite party no. 3, rameshwar narain singh is the general secretary of the district congress committee, azamgarh. election for membership of prarambhik (primary) congress committee of tarwa in the district of azamgarh was held on 10-4-84 for which the applicant and one badri singh were the only two candidates. badri singh aforesaid was declared elected. accordingly on 16-4-64 the applicant filed suit no. 132 of 1964 in the court of the city munsif, azamgarh, on the allegations that the election.....

Gyanendra Kumar, J.

1. The petitioner, V. P. Singh, is an Advocate practising at Azamgarh, Opposite Party No. 1, Shri Ajit Prasad Jain was erstwhile President of the U. P. Congress Committee, while Opposite Party No. 2, Govind Sahai is the General Secretary of the U. P. Congress Committee. Opposite Party No. 3, Rameshwar Narain Singh is the General Secretary of the District Congress Committee, Azamgarh. Election for membership of Prarambhik (Primary) Congress Committee of Tarwa in the district of Azamgarh was held on 10-4-84 for which the applicant and one Badri Singh were the only two candidates. Badri Singh aforesaid was declared elected. Accordingly on 16-4-64 the applicant filed suit No. 132 of 1964 in the Court of the City Munsif, Azamgarh, on the allegations that the Election Officer had committed certain illegalities and irregularities in conducting the said election; as such the same may be declared to be void and inoperative. Along with the plaint the petitioner had also filed an application for injunction whereupon the Munsif issued an ad interim order, dated 18-4-64 restraining the District Election Officer. Assistant District Election Officer and Polling Officer, Tarwa. from holding elections for membership of the District Congress Committee, Pradesh Congress Committee and Mandal Congress Committee of Tarwa constituency. Badri Singh, who was declared elected as member of the Prarambhik Congress Committee and who was arrayed as defendant No. 5 to the suit, was also restrained from taking part in those elections pending final orders. Badri Slngh thereupon filed an application, dated 21-4-64 praying for vacating the injunction order, dated 18-4-64.

2. It appears that by its resolution, dated 4/5-12-1950 the Working Committee of the Indian National Congress had passed a resolution to the effect that any member of the Congress having a grievance in respect of any election of the Congress organisation should approach the tribunals set up by the Congress for that purpose and should obtain redress by way of appeal or reference to one or the other of the tribunals established under the Congress Constitution. It was clearly set out that such matters should not be taken to law Courts. It was accordingly resolved by the Working Committee that any member who institutes a suit or other proceedings in law Courts against any Congress Committee or official was liable to summary removal from the membership of the Congress by order of the Provincial Congress Committee concerned. In view of the above resolution Sri Gulzari Lal Nanda, who had been delegated the authority of the Working Committee in respect of organisational election in U. P., issued a directive, dated 20-4-1964 to the President, U. P. Congress Committee, Opposite Party No. 1, to take immediate action against those members who had gone to the Courts in regard to the Congress organisational elections anywhere in U. P. Accordingly on 21-4-1964 Opposite Party No. 1 issued circular letters to all the District Returning Officers in U. P expelling those Congressmen from membership of the Congress who had filed suits in law Courts concerning organisational elections. Inter alia one such letter each was also issued by opposite parties Nos. 1 and 2 to the District Returning Officer, Azamgarh, expelling the petitioner and removing his name from the membership of the Congress. This decision was duly communicated by the District Returning Officer, Azamgarh, to the petitioner. Similar expulsions of many Congressmen were also made in various other districts of U. P.

3. The application, dated 21-4-1964 of Badri Singh (defendant No. 5 to the suit) for vacating the injunction order came up for final hearing before the City Munsif, Azamgarh, on 25-4-1964, when opposite party No. 3 filed his affidavit mentioning the fact that the petitioner had since been expelled from the Congress organisation. The Munsif accordingly vacated the interim injunction by his order, dated 27-4-1964 principally on the ground that the petitioner was no longer a member of the Congress organisation. On 9-5-1964 the petitioner moved an application before the City Munsif for proceedings in contempt, inasmuch as the present opposite parties had acted in collusion with one another and. by removing him from Congress organisation, had directly interfered with the normal course of justice by hampering the progress of the suit. The learned Munsif by his order, dated 30-5-1964 rejected the aforesaid application mainly on the ground that the present respondents were not parties to the suit. Hence the petitioner has filed the instant application in this Court for punishing the opposite parties for having committed the contempt of the Court of the City Munsif, Azamgarh, on the basis of the afore-mentioned facts.

4. Opposite parties Nos. 1 and 2 filed theirrespective written statements, with almost identical pleas, while opposite party No. 3 filed hiscounter affidavit, more or less on similar grounds.Their contention is that the Indian National Congress is a voluntary organisation which is notincorporated or registered under any law. Ithas its own constitution and procedure for elections and has set up different tribunals for thesettlement of disputes relating to organisationalelections, which are, therefore, alleged to bebeyond the jurisdiction 01 the Courts of law.It was contended that the opposite parties hadfull right and justification for expelling the petitioner and removing his name from the membership of the Congress; that this was done on thestrength of the resolution of the Congress Working Committee, dated 4/5th December 1950 andthe circular letter, dated 20-4-64 issued by ShriGulzari Lal Nanda to the President of the U. P.Congress Committee (opposite party No. 1) thatopposite parties Nos. 1 and 2 were duty boundto co-operate with Shri Nanda and so, in theirturn, they issued circular letters to all the District Returning Officers of U. P., expelling allCongressmen (including the petitioner) who hadapproached law Courts to seek redress regarding organisational elections; and that the petitioner or his suit in question was not directlyor indirectly in the minds of opposite partiesNos. 1 and 2 when the circular letters referredto above were issued by them, and that the nameof the petitioner was removed from Congressmembership, in the light of the general policyof the Congress and not with a view to renderhis suit infructuous or to oust the jurisdiction ofthe Court. It was, therefore, pleaded by all theopposite parties that they were not guilty ofany contempt of the Court of the City Munsif.Azamgarh.

5. It is the admitted case of the parties that soon after filing his written statement, dated 26-2-1965 opposite party No. 1 (Shri Ajit Prasad Jain) became the Governor of Kerala. A preliminary objection has, therefore, been taken on his behalf that in view of the provisions of Article 361(2) and (3) of the Constitution of India, the present proceedings for contempt of Court, which are in the nature of criminal proceedings, cannot be continued against opposite party No. 1, who is now the Governor of a State and no coercive process can be issued against him during his term of office. The relevant portions of Article 361 read as under:--

'(2) No criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against........

the Governor or Rajpramukh of a State, in any Court during his term of office.

(3) No process for the arrest or imprisonment of the. . . . Governor or Rajpramukh of a State, shall issue from any Court during his term of office.'

The reply on behalf of the petitioner is that proceedings in contempt are neither criminal nor civil in nature but sui generis, as such Sub-clauses (2) and (3) of Article 361 have no application to the instant case.

6. The learned Counsel for the parties concedes that there is no direct authority on the question involved in the instant case. The main thing which has, therefore, to be determined in this case is whether the present action for con tempt of Court can at all be termed as a criminal proceeding within the meaning of Article 361(2) of the Constitution of India. No word in a statute can be considered to be superfluous. The use of the word 'whatsoever' after the words 'criminal proceedings' in Sub-clause (2) of Article 361 is not without significance. Evidently it embraces not only criminal proceedings per se but even quasi criminal proceedings or those proceedings which ultimately merge into a criminal proceeding. If the present case can fall in any of these three categories, it cannot be continued against opposite party No. 1, who is currently the Governor of a State. The bar is constitutional and is absolute.

6a. Now let us examine the nature of the present proceedings in contempt. The distinction between civil contempt and criminal contempt is well known. The question for determination is whether the instant proceedings are in the nature of civil contempt or criminal contempt or quasi civil and quasi criminal which may ultimately merge into a criminal contempt. In this connection reference may be made to the leading case of O'Shea v. O'Shea and Parnell (1890) 15 PD 59. In that case the alleged contempt of Court consisted of the publication in a newspaper called The Freeman's Journal' of an article commenting upon the conduct of the petitioner thereto in a pending action against his wife for dissolution of marriage, which was calculated to prejudice the petitioner in the eves of the public and to discredit him in the assertion of right in the Court of trial The probate Court held that Tuohy was the manager of the office of the newspaper and was responsible for publication of the article. He was found guilty and a fine of 100 was inflicted on him and in default it was ordered that a writ of attachment should issue against him unless he paid the fine within a certain period. Tuohy went up before the Court of appeal. The objection taken on behalf of the respondent was that the infliction of fine and in default the issue of a writ of attachment was a criminal proceeding; and Section 47 of the Judicature Act of 1873 says that no appeal would lie to the Court of appeal against a criminal proceeding. So the appear was incompetent. On the other hand, the contention of the appellant was that attachment for contempt of Court was a civil proceeding and was not a criminal matter and as such an appeal lay to the Court of appeal. It was pointed out that the question was not determined by the fact that the proceeding in respect of which the order was made was a civil proceeding for a contempt of a Court in a civil proceeding may be of a criminal character. It was also point-out that there were two kinds of contempt of Court; when it is a mere disobedience of an order of the Court in a civil action it is not a criminal proceeding, and then there will be an appeal; for in that case attachment is issued only to enforce the order in the civil action. But in O'Shea's case, (1890) 15 PD 59, it was alleged that there had been an interference with the course of justice by a stranger to the suit which was a high public injury and, therefore, criminal. On behalf of the appellant it was said in reply that the contempt was not an insult to the Judge or to the dignity of the Court: it was a private injury to the petitioner whose rights in the cause were prejudiced by it and, therefore, it was of civil nature. The controversy rested on the interpretation of the material part of Section 47 of Judicature Act 1873 which ran as follows:--

'And no appeal shall lie from any judgment of the said High Court in any criminal cause or matter .....'

Cotton, L. J, delivered himself on the point as under:--

'The present proceeding is for a contempt of Court. Of course, there are many contempts of Court that are not of a criminal nature; for instance, when a man docs not obey an order of the Court made in some civil proceeding, to do or to abstain from doing something as where an injunction is granted in an action against 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. But is that so here ........ what gives the Court the power to act is the fact that the appellant has done something to prevent the course of justice by preventing the divorce suit from being properly tried. That is clearly a contempt of Court of a criminal nature. . ..... every thing done to prejudice the judge or jury in the trial of an action is a criminal act, because it is an attempt to prevent the course of justice an application to punish an attempt to induce the jury not to try the case properly, which is as much a criminal act as an attack upon the Judge himself.. .. In the present case the whole proceeding is to punish the appellant for a wrong which he has done, and not to the doing of anything for the petitioner's benefit in the action in the Divorce Division. It was a proceeding therefore, entirely out-side the divorce action.'

Lindley, L. J. agreeing with Cotton L. J. observed:--

'It is really an appeal from a summary conviction for a criminal offence,' The opinion of the third fudge, viz.. Lopes, L.J. was also the same. He held:-- 'The object of the application was to obtain the punishment of the appellant ...... I am clearly of opinion that this order was made in a criminal matter.'

In Seaman v. Burley, 1896-2 QB 344, the matter of interpretation of Section 47 of the Judicature Act 1873 again came up for consideration where a warrant of distress was issued on an application to enforce payment of a poor rate. It was held that inasmuch as the proceedings before the justices may end in imprisonment of the person in default it was a criminal matter within the meaning of Section 47.

7. Coming to Indian decisions reference may first be made to the well known case of Tarit Kanti Biswas, In the matter of, AIR 1918 Cal 988 (SB), wherein it was pointed out by Sir Asutosh Mookerjee, inter alia, relying upon the English authority of (1890) 15 PD 59, noted earlier:--

'A criminal contempt is conduct that isdirected against the dignity and authority of theCourt. A civil contempt, on the other hand, isfailure to do something ordered to be done bya Court in a civil action for the benefit of theopposing party therein. Consequently, in thecase of a criminal contempt, the proceeding isfor punishment of an act committed against themajesty of the law and as the primary purposeof the punishment is the vindication of thepublic authority the proceeding confirms asnearly as possible to proceedings in criminalcases. In the case of a civil contempt on theother hand, the proceeding in its initial stagesat least, when the purpose is merely to securecompliance with a judicial order made for thebenefit of a litigant, may be deemed institutedat the instance of the party interested and thusto possess a civil character. But, here alsorefusal to obey the order of the Court mayrender it necessary for the Court to adopt punitive measures against the person who has defiedits authority at that stage at least the proceedings may assume a criminal character. In thismanner the dividing line between acts whichconstitute criminal and others which constitutecivil contempt may become indistinct in thosecases, where the two gradually merge into eachother. . ... The power to punish for contemptis inherent in the very nature and purpose ofCourts of Justice. It subserves at once a doublepurpose, namely, as an aid to protect the dignityand authority of the tribunal and also as an aidin the enforcement of civil remedies. Thepower may consequently be exercised in civil orcriminal cases or independently of both andeither solely for the preservation of the authority of the Court or in aid of the rights of thelitigant or for both these purposes combinedBy reason of this two-fold attribute, proceedingsin contempt may be regarded as anomalous intheir nature possessed of characteristics whichrender them more or less difficult of ready ordefinite classification in the realm of judicialpower. Hence such proceedings have sometimes been styled sui generis. That they arelargely of a criminal nature inasmuch as theCourt has power to convict and punish for thewrong committed, cannot be disputed and yetit must be recognised that in some respects byreason of the end subserved they partake of thenature of a civil remedy This dual characteristichas given rise to many controversies, thedifficulty in each case is to determine when aparticular proceeding assumes the criminalrather than the civil aspect, or when of both,and if the latter which feature must control.The question has been repeatedly and elaborately discussed by the Supreme Court of theUnited States . . The view deducible fromthese decisions is in general agreement with whatis indicated above, namely, a proceeding topunish for contempt has the essential qualitiesof a criminal proceeding, whether the proceedingis initiated primarily to vindicate the Court's authority or solely as a coercive and a remedial measure to enforce the rights of the litigant or for both these purposes combined. This must be so since it necessarily results from the nature of the power to punish for contempt that whatever the primary purpose of such a proceeding may be, it is always within the power of the Court to make its judgment, in part, at least, punitive or vindicatory in character. In other words, where the sole purpose sought by initiating the proceeding is to secure the coercive and remedial action of the Court against a party, the Court may nevertheless, in its discretion, add a punishment by way of fine or imprisonment, for the failure of the person in contempt to obey its mandate, I think it undeniable that the proceeding must be regarded from its inception to the point of judgment as of a criminal nature.'

8. It was next contended on behalf of the petitioner that a criminal proceeding must necessarily arise out of an 'offence' as understood in law, and inasmuch as the present proceedings do not arise out of any statutory offence, they cannot be considered to be criminal in nature and as such do not confer immunity on the Governor of a State. The reply on behalf of opposite party No. 1 is that the present proceedings do arise out of an offence and even if they do not so arise out of a statutory offence, they would still be considered to be criminal in nature.

In support of their respective contentions, learned counsel for both the parties have placed reliance upon different portions of the Full Bench decision of this Court in State v. Padma Kant Malviya. : AIR1954All523 . In that case the main question was whether the contemner, who had voluntarily filed his affidavit could be cross-examined on it. As in the present case, it was argued there also on behalf of the opposite party that contempt of Court is an act made punishable by Contempt of Courts Act XXXII of 1952, and consequently it was an offence. In that connection if became necessary to consider the scope of Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India whether contempt of Court was an offence as defined in law and whether a contemner was an accused. Article 20(3) of the Constitution provides that: 'No person accused of an offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.' The word 'offence' has been defined in Section 3(38) of the General Clauses Act X of 1897 and also in Section 4 (0), Cr. P. C. as meaning 'any act or omission made punishable by any law for the time being in force'; while S 40 of the I. P. C. provides that the word 'offence' denotes a thing punishable under the Code or any other special or local law. Thus the word offence has obviously been used in the sense of a law enacted by a competent legislature Unlike the I. P. C. and other penal enactments the Contempt of Courts Act does not make any particular act or omission as punishable thereunder, although maximum punishment awardable under the Act has been prescribed by Section 5, In other words, though the maximum punishment, which may be inflicted on a contemner has been laid down, there is no offence' as such which has been made punishable under the statutory provisions of the Act. However there can be a criminal wrong (though not offence) on the part of the contemner for which he may be punished under the Act. The proceedings leading thereto being punitive would obviously be criminal in nature.

9. Malik, C. J. delivering the leading judgment observed as follows:--

'That being the legal position that nothing can be treated as a crime unless made so under some statutory provision, the word 'law' in the definition of the word 'offence' in the General Clauses Act must mean statute law. In other words, the definition in the General Clauses Act, Section 3(38) that 'offence' shall mean any act or omission made punishable by any law for the time being in force' means made punishable by the Penal Code or by a Statute passed by a competent legislature.

If I am right in my view that 'offence' in Article 20(3) of the Constitution must mean what is made an offence by statute, then the answer to the third question must be that a contemner is not a person accused of an 'offence' within the meaning of Article 20(3) of the Constitution unless it can be held that contempt has been made punishable by any law passed by a competent legislature.

The only other point that remains to be considered is whether contempt of Court has been made an offence under any statute .....'

After considering various cases Malik. C. ]. observed:

'The Contempt of Courts Act (Act XII of 1926) to my mind, cannot be said to be the law which makes contempt punishable (as an offence).

To my mind, even criminal contempt cannot be said to be a crime made punishable by law and it, therefore, does not come under the definition of the term 'offence in the General Clauses Act though by ancient practice it has been made punishable by Courts of record.'

(10) Desai, J. (as he then was) in his separate but concurrent judgment observed as under:--

'Contempt has been divided into civil contempt and criminal contempt. It cannot be disputed that the contempt that we are considering is criminal contempt; the object of the proceedings is not to enforce compliance with any order made by a Court but to punish for interference with the administration of justice by a Court.'

His Lordship then quoted the observations of Brewer, J. in the case 'Bessette' at p. 1001 (1903) 194 U. S. 324 to the effect--

'A contempt proceeding is sui generis. It is criminal in its nature, in that the party is charged with doing something forbidden, and, If found guilty is punished.'

According to Corpus Juris (11) p. 8:

'Although a contempt of Court is in a sensesui generis, it is commonly regarded as in thenature of a crime although not necessarily as acriminal offence. However criminal contempts.... are offences against organised society andpublic justice .and the proceedings topunish it (them) are punitive.'

11. His Lordship then quoted with approval the observations of Holmes. J. in Compers v. United States, (1913) 58 Law Ed.1115:--

'that if contempts 'are not criminal, we are in error as to the most fundamental characteristies of crimes.'

Though contempt may be a crime, it is not an offence as that word is understood in our Constitution.' In the end Desai, J. observed:--

'I think the words 'accused' and 'criminal proceedings' must be understood in the same sense in which those words are used in Criminal P. C. A contemner, even though the contempt committed by him is of criminal nature is not an accused in the narrow sense in which the word is used in Criminal P. C. The proceedings against him may be criminal proceedings for certain purposes but not for the purpose of deciding whether an oath should be administered to him or not. I have already shown that contempt proceedings are special proceedings not governed by 'any rule. ..'.

11a. Mukerji, J. likewise observed:

'I have already noticed that the definition of the word 'offence' in the General Clauses Act does not apply to a contemner.'

12. Learned counsel for the petitioner has also placed reliance on the case of Ch. Shyam Sunder v. Daw Dayal Khanna, : AIR1956All79 , In this case the question was as to how the cost awarded in a contempt case be realised In that connection it was observed:

'Contempt proceedings are neither civil not criminal but sui generis. A High Court punishes contempt of Court as a Court of Record in exercise of its inherent jurisdiction and the procedure that it adopts is governed neither by the Code of Civil Procedure nor by the Criminal Procedure '

13. In Manoharlal v. Prem Shankar Tandon MR 1960 All 231, it was held:--

'There are two- classes of contempt, viz(1) a criminal contempt, and (2) a civil contempt ... It is true that even a civilcontempt, when proceedings are taken underthe Contempt of Courts Act, assumes a quasi-criminal nature; but there are certain principleswhich have to be borne in mind, in consideringthe cases of civil contempt, which is differentfrom a criminal contempt.'

14. I think the true distinction between a civil contempt and a criminal contempt seems to be that in a civil contempt the purpose is to force the contemner to do something for the benefit of the other party, while in criminal contempt the proceeding is by way of punishment for a wrong not so much to a party or individual but to the public at large by interfering with the normal process of law or diminishing the majesty of the Court, However, if a civil contempt is enforced, say, by fine or imprisonment of the contemner for non-performance of his obligation imposed by a Court, it merges into a criminal contempt and becomes a criminal matter at the end. Such a contempt, being neither purely civil nor purely criminal in nature, is sometimes called sui generis. Contempt proceedings as a whole are also often described as sui generis inasmuch as their procedure is neither governed by the Civil Procedure Code nor by the Code or Criminal Procedure. It is the con tempt of Court which lays down a procedure of its own for doing justice in the case, in consonance with the well recognised legal principles. However, there can be no such dispute or uncertainty in respect of the present case in so far as the grievance of the petitioner here Is that by their act and conduct the opposite parties had hampered the progress of his suit and had thus stopped the normal process of law. The petitioner desires the opposite parties to be punished for the same. Such a contempt would undoubtedly be of criminal nature and the action taken therein would be a criminal proceeding.

15. In view of the above discussion, I am In agreement with the view that proceedings in contempt, particularly those which are alleged to hamper the normal course of justice, like the present, would be in the nature of criminal proceedings and would, therefore, provide absolute immunity to the Governor of a State from being proceeded against. Contempt proceedings have sometimes been called sui generis, but it is in the limited sense that their procedure is neither governed by Civil Procedure Code nor by Criminal P. C.; and also in the sense that a contempt proceeding may he civil in nature to start with, yet it may assume a criminal form at the end, when punishment is sought to be inflicted upon the wrong-doer It is true that the instant contempt proceedings had started against opposite party No. 1 when he was not the Governor of any State, yet the provisions of Article 381(2) of the Constitution not only afford complete immunity to the Governor of a State from institution of criminal proceedings against him, but they further lay down that such proceedings, if already instituted, cannot be continued against him, in any Court, during his term of office. Therefore, so long as opposite party No. 1 remains the Governor of Kerala, the present proceedings being essentially criminal in nature, must be discontinued and the notice issued against him is liable to be discharged. I order accordingly.

16. Now we come to the case of opposite parties Nos. 2 and 3 who are Secretaries of the U. P. Congress Committee and the District Congress Committee, Azamgarh, respectively Their pleas had already been mentioned at the outset, while dealing with the case of opposite party No. 1, and need not be repeated here It may, however, be emphasised that, inter alia the case of the plaintiff was that the action of the polling officer (defendant No. 4) in declaring the plaintiff unelected and defendant No. 5 elected was wholy illegal, void and without jurisdiction. He further alleged that defendant Nos. 4 and 5 had acted mala fide and in collusion with each other in order to harm the plain tiff intentionally.

17. The two main questions for consideration posed on behalf of 2nd and 3rd opposite parties are: (1) whether the Civil Court is at all competent to enquire into the matter, in view of the fact that the Indian National Congress is a voluntary organisation and being not incorporated or registered under any law, it is not a legal entity; its constitution and procedure having set up domestic forum for deciding disputes relating to organisational elections (2) whether the act and conduct of opposite parties Nos. 2 and 3 in expelling the petitions from the membership of the Congress during the pendency of the suit, though based on the circular letters issued by Shri Gulzari Lal Nanda and opposite party No. 1 (the then President of the U. P. Congress Committee) amount to contempt of Court by interfering with the process of law, which had been set in motion by the petitioner by instituting suit No. 132 of 1964 in the Court of the City Munsif, Azamgarh?

18. In support of the first contention, Shri Jagdish Swarup, appearing on behalf of opposite parties Nos. 2 and 3, has not been able to place any authority before me. In fact one of the preliminary points to be decided by the Munsif in the suit would be whether a dispute relating to organisational election if the Congress is justiciable in a Court of law. This Court is not directly concerned with that wider question. But if I were called upon to express my views on the point, so far as it is relevant to the present controversy, I should think that the Civil Court has jurisdiction to decide such matters at least for the limited purpose, whether the defendants had acted mala fide, without jurisdiction or in violation of the principles of natural justice, In this connection reliance has been placed by the learned counsel for the petitioner on the following two decisions:--

(1) Annamunthodo v. Oilfields Workers Trade Union, 1961-3 All ER 621 and

(2) T. P. Dayar v. Lodge Victoria : [1964]1SCR2 .

19. The brief facts in the first case were that the appellant was an ordinary member of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union and, is such, had agreed to obey and was subject to the Union's rules. Stripped of their legal form, the charges against him were in substance that, he had attended meetings in the works, at which non-members were present, during which he had alleged that the president-general of the union had embezzled Pounds 25,000 of the union's funds; that officers of the union were corrupt and had committed theft. : The rules of the union prohibited discussion of the business of the union with persons who were not members of the union (sic) was liable to be suspended from membership or fined. The rules also provided an appeal to the annual conference of delegates. The general counsel of the union found him guilty and expelled him from membership. On appeal, the annual conference of delegates upheld the expulsion Thereupon the appellant sought relief in the Courts of law. Lord Denning delivering the judgment of the Board found as a matter of fact that under none of the rules of the union applicable to the appellant was there any power to expel him and that he was not given due notice of fresh charges nor opportunity to meet the same. It was also found that by appealing to the annual conference of delegates, the appellant had not forfeited his right to redress in the Courts of law. It was observed:--

'If the original order was invalid, for wantof observance of the rules of natural justice hecan still complain of it, notwithstanding hisappeal.

If a domestic tribunal fails to act in accordance with natural justice, the person affected by their decision can always seek redress 'in the Courts. If is a prejudice to am mart in be denied justice. . . But he can always ask for the decision against him to be set aside.'

20. In T. P. Daver's case : [1964]1SCR2 , supra the facts briefly are that there is a 'Grand Lodge of Scotland' of Masons with its headquarters at Edinburgh. Under its supervision there are District Grand Lodges spread throughout the world There are also Daughter Lodges under the superintendence of the District Grand Lodges. The Grand Lodge of Scotland is governed by its own written constitution and laws. There is also a separate Constitution and laws for every District Grand Lodge. 'Lodge Victoria is a Danghter Lodge at Belgaum under the District Grand Lodge of Bombay and is governed by the Constitution and laws of the latter The appellant was a member of the Lodge Victoria. On October 16, 1952, the second respondent made a complaint against the appellant to the Master Lodge Victoria, alleging that the appellant was guilty of 12 masonic offences and that he should be tried and punished for the charges levelled against him under certain laws of the Constitution On October 20. 1952. notice of the said complaint was issued to the appellant and he was informed that he was entitled to be present to state his defence at the special meeting to be field on November 8, 1952. On October 27, 1952, the appellant submitted his answer in extenso to the various charges levelled against him On November 8, 1952 a special meeting of the Lodge was held when each charge was read at the meeting alony with the replies of the appellant. Each charge was put to vote and the members present unanimously held that every one of the charges levelled against the appellant was established. In the result they passed a resolution excluding the appellant from the Lodge. On November 24. 1952, the appellant preferred an appeal against the order to the District Grand Lodge, which dismissed the same. On a further appeal to the Grand Lodge of Scotland, his sentence was considered as one of supension sine die' and recommended to the Lodge Victoria to review the suspension after a period of twelve months if the appellant applied for reinstatement On September 7, 1954, the appellant instituted a suit in the Court of the Civil Judge. Belgaun for (1) declaration that the resolution of the Victoria Lodge dated November 8. 1952 was illegal and void and that he continued to be a member of the Lodge despite the resolution, (2) Injunetiop to restrain the officers and servants of the said Lodge from preventing him from exercising his rights therein, and (3) for recovery of damages. The Civil Judge dismissed the suit. The appeal filed by the appellant to the High Court of Mysore was also dismissed. He then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Their Lordships of the Supreme Court observed as follows on the question of jurisdiction of Civil Courts:--

'...... The jurisdiction of a Civil Court is rather limited, it cannot obviously sit as it Court of appeal from decisions of such a body; it can set aside the order of such a body, if the said body acts without jurisdiction or does not act in good faith or acts in violation of the principles of natural justice.'

From the above weighty pronouncements of the Privy Council and the Supreme Court of India, it can well be inferred that prima facie the City Munsif of Azamgarh has jurisdiction to entertain the suit inasmuch as the applicant alleged want of good faith and jurisdiction as well as violation of the principles of natural justice. I might, however, make it clear that these observations of mine are not binding on the Munsif, who would decide the matter independently on the material placed before him.

21. This leads us to the main question whether, in the circumstances of the case, opposite parties Nos. 2 and 3 are guilty of contempt of Court of the City Munsif Azamgarh. On this question the contention of Shri Jagdish Swarup counsel for the opposite parties, is that his clients are not guilty in contempt, inasmuch as they were bona fide acting in pursuance of the resolution of the Working Committee of the Congress dated, 4/5 December, 1960, which was enforced by means of circular letter dated April 20, 1964 issued by Shri Gulzari Lal Nanda and that of the President, U P. Congress Committee dated 21-4-64, requiring the expulsion of all congressmen who had approached the law Courts for seeking redress or their grievances relating to organisational elections.

It may be remembered that, during the pendency of the suit, opposite party No. 2 again issued another general circular letter dated 22-4-64 to the same effect. It was opposite party No. 3, who had filed his affidavit in the Court of the Munsif reiterating that the expulsion of the petitioner from the Congress was fully justified. In this Court Opposite parties Nos. 2 and 3 have described the conduct of the petitioner as misbehaviour, reprehensible and anti-social, inasmuch as the jurisdiction of the Court was wrongfully invoked by the petitioner in relation to the domestic matters of the Congress, when in law it does not possess such jurisdiction . . . The petitioner has introduced in the suit a fictitious cause of action and has abused process of the Court.'

22. Oswald in his well-known book on Contempt of Court 3rd Edition, at page 6 says:--

'To speak generally, contempt of Court may be said to be constituted by any conduct that tends to bring the authority and administration of the law into disrespect or disregard or to interfere with or prejudice parties, litigants or their witnesses during the litigation.'

23. On the strength of the general principles laid clown by Oswald, it can safely be inferred that the acts and conduct of opposite parties Nos. 2 and 3 did bring the administration of law into disregard of justice during the pendency of the petitioner's- suit in the Court of the City Mumif, Azamgarh. In this connection reference may be made to the authoritative pronouncement of their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Pratap Singh v. Gurbaksh Singh. : AIR1962SC1172 .

Briefly stated the facts of the case were that Gurbaksh Singh respondent was a Forester in the Punjab Forest Department, while Pratap Singh appellant was Chief Conservator of Forest, Punjab and Bachan Singh appellant was Divisional Forest Officer, Amritsar. In 1950 Gurbaksh Singh supplied 3 lacs cubic feet of timber to the various Ordnance Depots under orders of the then Chief Conservator of Forests. In 1954, the then Chief Conservator of Forests sent a letter to Gurbaksh Singh alleging that there had been a short supply in the timber sent to one of the Depots causing a loss of Rs. 11,366 to the Government. By an order conveyed in a letter dated July 16, 1956 the State Government directed the Chief Conservator of Forests to recover 10 per cent of the loss, that is, Rs. 1136 odd annas from the respondent, in accordance with the rules contained in the Punjab Civil Services (Punishment and Appeal) Rules, 1952. Gurbaksh Singh then instituted a suit in the Court of the Senior subordinate Judge, Amritsar, for a declaration that the order of recovery made against him was void and without effect. After the service of the notice on the State Government, its Under Secretary in the Forest Department sent a memorandum to the Chief Conservator of Forests in which his attention was drawn to a circular letter issued by the Chief Secretary on January 25, 1953. which was in these terms:--

'I am directed to say that the question of Government servants having recourse to Courts of law in matters arising out of their employ merit or conditions of service has been engaging the attention of Government for some time past and it is considered necessary to lay down that in the matter of grievances arising out of a Government servants employment or conditions of service the proper course is to seek redress from the appropriate departmental and governmental authorities. Any attempt by a Government servant to seek a decision on such issues in a Court of law (even in cases where such a remedy is legally admissible) without first exhausting the normal official channels of redress, can only be regarded as contrary to official propriety and subversive of good discipline and may well justify the initiation of disciplinary action against the Government servant.'

The Under Secretary said in his memorandum that as Gur-Baksh Singh respondent had not exhausted the departmental remedies open to him before going to a Court of law, he had rendered himself liable to disciplinary action as per instructions contained in the circular letter. He further enquired from the Chief Conservator of Forests, Pratap Singh as to what action he proposed to take against Gurbaksh Singh

On receipt of the above memorandum. Pratap Singh appellant sent a copy thereof to the Conservator of Forests, and directed that the respondent should be proceeded with in accordance with the instructions aforesaid, and a copy of the proceedings recorded and orders passed in the case should be forwarded to him. On receipt of the said orders, the Conservator of Forests, passed an office order appointing Bachan Singh appellant to hold an enquiry against Gurbaksh Singh for having contravened the instructions contained in the circular letter quoted above, Bachan Singh drew up a charge sheet against the respondent and asked him to submit an explanation in writing. In the charge-sheet it was .stated that the respondent had gone to a Court of law before exhausting all his departmental remedies and this was contrary to official propriety and subversive of good discipline.

On September 14, .1.957, the respondent made an application to the High Court of Punjab to the effect that Pratap Singh and Bachan Singh had committed contempt of Court, in as much as Pratap Singh had framed and got served a charge-sheet on Gurbaksh Singh (respondent), while Bachan Singh was holding--in enquiry into the charge, which was tantamount to interfering with his legal rights to seek redress in a Court of law and also amounted to exercising pressure upon him with the intent of restraining him from pressing his suit. This, it was stated, amounted to an obstruction of the judicial process and interfered with the course of justice in respect of the suit, which was pending in the Court of the Senior Subordinate Judge, Amritsar, The High Court of Punjab came to the conclusion that both Pratap Singh and Bachan Singh were guilty of contempt of Court, even though they were merely endeavouring to comply with the instructions of the Government, the legality or propriety of which they had no reason to doubt. The Punjab High Court, therefore, considered that the ends of justice would be met if the two contemners were directed to abandon the departmental proceedings and furthermore, if they were warned against complying with the instructions contained in the circular letter issued by the State Government. Being aggrieved by the decision of the High Court both Pratap Singh and Bachan Singh went up in appeal to the Supreme Court

Two main points in the above case were urged before the Supreme Court on behalf of the appellants: (1) that a fair construction of the terms of the circular letter on which the two appellants took action against the respondent, it should be held that it did not constitute an interference with the course of justice, inasmuch as it did not impose any absolute ban on a Government servant to have recourse to a Court of law for the redress of his grievances arising out of his employment or conditions of his service, but merely imposed an obligation on a Government servant to exhaust his departmental remedies before taking recourse to a Court of law.

It has been argued that on this view of the circular letter, the action taken by the appellants against the respondent did not constitute an interference with the course of justice in respect of the suit which was pending in the Court of the Senior Subordinate Judge, Amritsar; and (2) that in any view of the matter appellant Pratap Singh, who took no action beyond endorsing the memorandum of the Under Secretary, was not guilty of Contempt of Court. Their Lordships of the Supreme Court while dealing with the effect of the action taken in pursuance of the circular letter issued by the Under Secretary observed as follows:--

' . . . . It should perhaps be made clearat the very outset that the question before us isnot so much the validity of the circular letterin the abstract, but the propriety of the actiontaken against the respondent on the basis of thecircular letter at a time when his suit was awaiting decision in the Court of the Senior Subordinate Judge at Amritsar. It must not, however,be assumed that we are holding the circularletter to be valid in the sense that compliancewith it will, in no circumstances, amount toContempt of Court. We do not come to anysuch conclusion. The argument before us isthat the circular letter did not impose an absolute ban on a Government servant seekingredress of his grievances arising put of his employment or service conditions in a Court oflaw; it is submitted that all that it did was toask Government servants to exhaust first thenormal official channels of redress before proceeding to a Court of law. The emphasis, itis stated, is on propriety and discipline in theconduct of a Government servant; and it hasbeen submitted that judged from that point ofview, the circular letter cannot be said to constitute an interference with the course of justicein any Court of law. . . . But we have toconsider in this case a somewhat different problem, namely, the action taken against the respondent during a pending litigation, as thoughgoing to a Court of law before exhausting departmental remedies must in all cases be visitedwith punishment.

It appears, therefore, that appellant Pratap Singh was not merely content with forwarding the memorandum of the Under Secretary He directed his subordinate officer to take action against the respondent. In accordance with that direction a proceeding was drawn up against the respondent and the appellant Bachan Singh was asked to enquire into it. The appellant Bachan Singh then drew up a charge-sheet and in that charge-sheet it was stated that the respondent had gone to a Court of law before exhausting all his departmental remedies. What would be the effect of these proceedings on the suit which was pending in the Court of the Senior Subordinate Judge. Amritsar From the practical point of view, the institution of the proceeding at a time when the suit in the Court of the Senior Subordinate Judge, Amritsar, was pending could only be to put pressure on the respondent to withdraw his suit, or face the consequences of disciplinary action. This, in our opinion, undoubtedly amounted to Contempt of Court. There are many ways of obstructing the Court and any conduct by which the course of justice is perverted, either by a party or a stranger, is a contempt; thus the use of threats, by letter or otherwise, to a party while his suit is pending; or abusing a party in letters to per sons likely to be witnesses in the cause, have been held to be contempts. (Oswald's Contempt of Court, 3rd Ed., p. 87). The question is not whether the action in fact interfered, but whether it had a tendency to interfere with the due course of justice, The action taken in this case against the respondent by way of a proceeding against him can, in our opinion, have only one tendency, namely, the tendency to coerce the respondent and force him to withdraw his suit or otherwise not press it. If that be the clear and unmistakable tendency of the proceedings taken against the respondent, then there can be no doubt that in law the appellants have been guilty of contempt of Court, even though they were merely carrying out the instructions contained in the circular letter.'

It may be mentioned here that their Lordships of the Supreme Court fully approved the decision of this Court in Shankar Lal Sharma v. M. S. Bisht : AIR1956All160 , in which in the circumstances more or less similar to those in Pratap Singh's case : AIR1962SC1172 , this Court had expressed the view that even though the action against the employee had been taken in accordance with the instructions contained in the circular letter, it amounted to a threat, with a view to induce the employee to forego the assistance of the Civil Courts and, therefore contempt of Court.

24. Reverting to Pratap Singh's case : AIR1962SC1172 , their Lordships of the Supreme Court observed as under about those appellants:--

'.......They were no doubt carrying out executive instructions given by their employer, but they carried out those instructions at a time when a Civil suit was pending and they carried out the instructions in such a manner as to exert pressure on the respondent to withdraw the suit..... the appellants were clearly guilty of contempt of Court.'

In Pratap Singh's case : AIR1962SC1172 (supra), their Lordships of the Supreme Court also had occasion to consider the decision in Webster v. Bakewell R. D. C., 1918-1 Ch 300, which has been relied upon by the learned counsel for opposite parties Nos. 2 and 3 in this case. The Supreme Court distinguished that case and found it not applicable.

25. In Pratap Singh's case : AIR1962SC1172 , Raghubar Dayal, J. gave the minority dissenting judgment on certain points, but His Lordship also observed:--

'........ It is, therefore, only when the Departmental action directly affects the course of the judicial proceeding that It can amount to interfering with the course of justice and. consequently, to contempt of Court. If it does not do so, there can be no case of contempt of Court.'

26. In the instant case the act and conduct of the two contemners directly interfered with the course of judicial proceeding inasmuch as they did not merely amount to a threat to the petitioner to withdraw his suit, but were actually meant to non-suit him by expelling him from the Congress organisation and thus removing the very bed-rock on which stood the edifice of the petitioner's claim. Opposite parties Nos. 2 and 3 have not contented themselves by taking refuge under the circular letters issued by Shri Gulzari Lal Nanda and Shri Ajit Prasad Jain but have further described, the petitioner's basal right of approaching a Court of law for the redress of his grievances as 'anti social', 'reprehensible' and 'wilful' misbehaviour. They have not expressed a single word of regret for their conduct either in their written statement or counter affidavit, nor was any word of regret or apology expressed on their behalf by their learned counsel. In this situation a somewhat stricter view has to be taken.

27. Accordingly I hold that opposite parties Nos. 2 and 3 are guilty of having committed Contempt of Court of the City Munsif, Azamgarh, by interfering with and endeavouring to make the suit of the petitioner infructuous. Therefore, I impose a fine of Rs. 500 each on opposite parties Nos. 2 and 3. They shall also pay Rs. 150 as costs of the petitioner and Rs. 80 as costs to the Government Advocate Sri N. C. Upadhya.

Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //