1. This petition under art. 227 of the Constitution is directed against the order dated January 25, 1982, passed by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal whereby it had issued notice to Shri R. Ramalingam, Deputy Manager of the Insurance company, as to why an action for contempt should not be taken against him.
2. I had directed the learned Tribunal to submit a report which is on record. It appears from the report that the matter was adjourned from time to time for compromise. Finally, the Tribunal directed the administrative officer of the insurance company to appear before it with the records relating to the compromise to find the stage of the compromise. The administrative officer was directed to appear on October 23, 1981. On the said date, the Tribunal was on leave and, thereforee, the case could not be taken up. Again by order dated January 7, 1981, similar directions were given to the administrative officer to appear on January 25, 1982. On January 25, 1982., the counsel for the insurance company stated before the Tribunal that the order of the Tribunal had been communicated to the deputy manager. Since there was none present from the insurance company, the impugned order was passed.
3. I can very well appreciate the anxiety of the Tribunal to get the matter settled, but the settlement cannot be forced on the parties. It is stated in the petition and also a statement has been made at the Bar, that a settlement was not possible in view of the information gathered by the insurance company from various documents. In my opinion, the Tribunal was not justified in sending for the file relating to the compromise, because the communication between the counsel for the petitioner and the insurance company is also privileged and nobody can be compelled to disclose the communication.
4. Mr. Suri further states that on January 28, 1982, the deputy manager had appeared before the Tribunal and stated that since he was under orders of transfer, he had not taken cognizance of the matter. In view of this statement of the deputy manager, in my opinion, there was no occasion for the Tribunal to proceed with the notice for contempt. The notice was issued under O. 16, r. 12 of the CPC. The notice is in the following terms :
Shri R. Ramalingam,
United India Co. Ltd.,
Whereas in the above noted case, you were served with counsel to appear in this court for January 25, 1981, with papers/documents, but you did not appear on the said date, now, you are hereby served with notice under Order 16, rule 12 of the CPC to appear in this court on January 28, 1981, at 10 a.m. failing which legal action will be taken against you.
Given under my hand and the seal of the court on this 25th day of January, 1982.
Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal,
5. Order 16, r. 12, provides for the enforcement of a summons issued to witness to attend the court or to produce documents and for punishing disobedience of the order. There is no scope for initiating contempt proceedings for failure to carry out such orders. The rule in terms talks of a witness and not the party. If a party deliberately or otherwise chooses not to appear, resort cannot be had to this rule. In civil matters, the appearance of the counsel is enough and the parties cannot be directed to appear under this rule.
6. In any case, Mr. Suri has expressed regret for the non-appearance of the administrative officer on January 25, 1982.
7. For the reasons recorded above, I am satisfied that the order/notice dated January 25, 1982, is without jurisdiction and I, accordingly, quash the same. The Tribunal is directed to proceed with the case on merits.