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Municipal Board (City Board) Vs. Sat Pal Pandhi - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal;Contempt of Court
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Misc. Contempt No. 34 of 1964
Judge
Reported inAIR1965All606; 1965CriLJ707
ActsUttar Pradesh Municipalities Act, 1916 - Sections 34 and 34(1); Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) - Order 39, Rule 2
AppellantMunicipal Board (City Board)
RespondentSat Pal Pandhi
Appellant AdvocateP.N. Misra, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateS.N. Misra, Sr. Adv., ;Kripa Shanker, ;Ram Krishan Verma and ;A. Hajela, Advs.
DispositionApplication dismissed
Excerpt:
..... - - 10. learned counsel for the applicant has argued that as under the aforesaid section the state government did not enjoy any power to prohibit the execution of a resolution, unless it tended to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury to the public, the only motive with which the respondent approached the state government for the redress of his alleged grievances was to get the municipal board influenced by it in such a manner as to make it desist from prosecuting its defence in the suit instituted by him. it is true that for initiating proceedings in contempt, it is notnecessary that the action complained of must have actually interfered with the even course of justice. .but the fact remains that it does enjoy such a power and the respondent who was feeling aggrieved by the..........of justice. 8. section 34 (1) of the u. p. municipalities act, 1916 reads : '34. power of the state government or the prescribed authority or district magistrate to prohibit execution or further execution of resolution or order of board: (1) the prescribed authority may by order in writing, prohibit the execution or further execution of a resolution or order passed or made under this or any other enactment by a board or a committee of a board or a joint committee or any officer or servant of a board or of a joint committee if in (its) opinion such resolution or order is of a nature to cause or tend to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury to the public or to any class or body of persons lawfully employed and may prohibit the doing or continuance by any person of any act, in.....
Judgment:
ORDER

H.C.P. Tripathi, J.

1. Respondent S. P. Pandhi is the printer, publisher and proprietor of two Weeklies--Himachal Times (English) and Hindi Himachal Times--which are published from Mussoorie. He is a representative of the Press Trust of India at Mussoorie and is also a correspondent of a number of wellestablished and widely circulated newspapers and journals in the country. For about a decade the proceedings of the meetings of the Municipal Board Mussoorie and its other advertisements and notices had been published by him on receipt of publication charges in his weeklies, and his father had been a nominated member of the Board and had also held for some time the office of the Senior Vice-President.

2. It appears that some differences cropped up between the applicant's father on the one hand and the President of the Municipal Board on the other which ultimately led to his resignation from the Board. During the years 1962 and 1963 the respondent published a number of articles and news items in his weeklies and also to other newspapers regarding the administration of the Municipal Board which was considered by the Board as highly objectionable and damaging to its reputation. In their opinion, the publications were tendentious and likely to affect the reputation of Mussoorie as a health resort and thereby injured its interests.

3. On 12th November 1963, the Board adopted a resolution naming the respondent 'as person and non-grata-vis-a-vis the Municipal Board of Mussoorie' and blacklisting his two weeklies and directing that no publication work thereafter was to be made in his papers.

4. On the 2lst of November 1963 a suit was filed by the respondent in the Court of Civil Judge against the Municipal Board and the Editor of another weekly --Vanguard--published from Mussoorie on the allegation that the aforesaid resolution was libellous and defamatory and praying therein that the Board be res. trained by permanent injunction from despatching copy of the resolution to any newspaper for publication and the Editor of Vanguard be restrained from publishing it in his weekly and in case the copy had already been sent for publication then for its recall. On the same date an application was presented to the suit under Order 39, Rule 2 and an injunction order as prayed was issued restraining the publication of the resolution in newspapers.

5. On the 27th November 1962, while the aforesaid suit was still pending disposal in Court, the respondent addressed a communication to the Secretary, Local Self Government, U. U.P. Lucknow in which he gave a history of his dispute with the Municipal Board and the circumstances in which the impugned resolution was passed by the Board and alleged that the resolution was defamatory and libellous and therefore prayed that the Government be pleased to prohibit execution of the said resolution under Section 34 of the U. P. Municipalities Act failing which he was to take legal steps as may be necessary to have the resolution quashed and to prohibit the execution of the resolution in all its phases. He also stated that unless the Government took action as requested by him, he would file a criminal complaint under Section 500, Indian Penal Code, against the members of the Board who were parties to the resolution and also a claim for damages of Rs. 20,000/- against them in which the Municipal Board was also to be impleaded as defendant. It is this communication which is the subject of contempt, and which, according to the applicant, was addressed by the respondent inter alia with the intention:

'To get an action initiated by Government to coerce and intimidate the members of the Board so that the members of the Board may be deterred from prosecuting the suit filed by the opposite party'.

And to put pressure on them and with a view to 'divert the even course of justice by living to desist them from the proper defence of the suit'.

6. In his counter affidavit the respondent has denied that the aforesaid communication was ad-dressed by him with a view to influence the even course of justice or to coerce the members so that they may not put up a proper defence to his civil suit. According to him,

'The said letter to the Government was completely independent of the pending proceedings and being on a different matter, the question of affecting the decision of the pending suit did not arise at all and the application filed for initiating contempt proceedings against him was mala fide and without any foundation.'

7. It has been further urged on behalf of the respondent that the injunction suit filed by him against the Municipal Board was only :

'To restrain them from despatching copy of the impugned resolution to Press Trust of India or any newspaper for publication and also to restrain permanently Sri Jitendra Nath, Editor of the Vanguard-Weekly, from publishing the said resolution'.

The Municipal Board of Mussoorie had, however, despatched copy of the said resolution to a number of newspapers for publication and Sri Jitendra Nath had published in his paper the impugned resolution on the 22nd November 1963, and thus the said suit had become infructuous, on the 27th of November 1963. when the letter was addressed by him to the Government it has been further added that in his own self-interest if the respondent felt justified to move the Government to quash the said resolution, it is not understood how he hampered with the even course of justice and how he had interfered with the progress of any matter which is sub judice. Learned counsel for the respondents has also urged that it was open to the respondent under the law to seek a remedy at the hands of the Government for quashing the impugned resolution and his action in that regard had not even the remotest connection with the pending suit and can never be held to tend to influence the even course of justice.

8. Section 34 (1) of the U. P. Municipalities Act, 1916 reads :

'34. Power of the State Government or the Prescribed Authority or District Magistrate to prohibit execution or further execution of resolution or order of Board: (1) The prescribed Authority may by order in writing, prohibit the execution or further execution of a resolution or order passed or made under this or any other enactment by a board or a committee of a board or a joint committee or any officer or servant of a board or of a joint committee if in (its) opinion such resolution or order is of a nature to cause or tend to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury to the public or to any class or body of persons lawfully employed and may prohibit the doing or continuance by any person of any act, in pursuance of or under cover of such resolution or order.'

9. A persual of the aforesaid section makes it obvious that the State Government enjoys a power to-prohibit the execution of a resolution of the Municipal Board under certain circumstances.

10. Learned counsel for the applicant has argued that as under the aforesaid section the State Government did not enjoy any power to prohibit the execution of a resolution, unless it tended to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury to the public, the only motive with which the respondent approached the State Government for the redress of his alleged grievances was to get the Municipal Board influenced by it in such a manner as to make it desist from prosecuting its defence in the suit instituted by him. He has further urged that by not mentioning in his aforesaid communication to the Government that he had already instituted a suit, the respondent deliberately created an impression on the Government that 'no steps had been taken by him in any Court of lawwhich reflected the mens rea of the respondent.' I donot find any force in these contentions.

11 . It is settled law that the Court's jurisdiction in contempt is not to be invoked unless there is real prejudice which can be regarded as a substantial interference with the due course of justice. It is not every theoertical tendency that will attract the actionsof the Court in its very special jurisdiction. It is true that for initiating proceedings in contempt, it is notnecessary that the action complained of must have actually interfered with the even course of justice. Even a clear and unambiguous tendency inherent in the action to interfere is enough, but a fanciful or remote tendency can never form the basis for an action for contempt.

12. It is no doubt true that the power for preventing the execution of a resolution can be exercisedby the State Government only.

'if in its opinion such resolution or order is of a nature to cause or tend to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury to the public or to any class or body of persons lawfully employed. . . . .'

But the fact remains that it does enjoy such a power and the respondent who was feeling aggrieved by the resolution of the Board might have honestly believed that he was in the law entitled to ask a relief from the State Government under the aforesaid section. If, therefore, he addressed a private communication to the State Government asking a relief fromit and indicating his desire, in the event of the State Government not interfering with the matter, to proceed against the Board and its members in law Courts, the action cannot be held even remotely to have any tendency to interfere with the decision of the suit, which for all practical purposes had become infructuous but was pending in the Civil Court it will not be reasonable to hold that any inquiry that might have been initiated by the State Government on the aforesaid communication of the respondent would have any tendency to influence the Municipal Board or its members in a manner so as to make them desist from prosecuting their defence in the suit. It would certainly have been better on the part of the respondent to have indicated to the State Government in his communication that he was already seeking a limited remedy in Court against the Municipal Board. His omission, however, to mention this fact in his letter cannot necessarily be held to be mala fide or with a view to conceal it from the knowledge of the State Government.

13. In the result, this application is dismissed and the notice issued to the respondent is discharged. In the circumstances of the case, parties are directed to bear their own costs.


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