1. Shri A. Jindal, Magistrate, First Class, Delhi, has made a reference under Section 3 of the Contempt of Courts Act for taking action against Shri P. L. Chhabra, Provincial Transport Controller, Haryana Government, at Chandigarh on the basis of a demi official letter dated 4-4-1968 written by him to Shri C. G. Suri, District and Sessions Judge, Delhi. That letter may appropriately to reproduced in ex-tenso:--
'Our General Manager of Haryana Roadways Depto at Gurgaou, Shri B, S. Khurana, has told me that on 14-2-1968 he was summoned to the Court of Shri Jindal, a Magistrate at Delhi, in connection with some cases pending against the drivers of vehicles Nos. PNG-2430, 2440, 2436 and 2149. It appears that these drivers were prosecuted in the year 1903-64 and were summoned on a number of occasions. It is indeed very unfortunate that the drivers concerned have nto put in actual appearance so far. The present General Manager, who has taken over at Gurgaon hardly three month ago, says that he has no information about these cases nor could he lay hands on any papers in, this connection. The General Manager is nto the accused in these cases. However, Shri Khurana appeared before Shri Jindal on 14-2-1968 in deference to the summons. The Magistrate called upon him to furnish security for his appearance on future dates. The General Manager pointed out that he was nto the accused. Ultimately, he was allowed to go after he had filed a personal bond. The case was adjourned to 11-3-1968. It appears that Shri Jindal wanted to proceed with these cases as if they were against him rather than against the drivers. The General Manager says that he submitted that he could nto be prosecuted without the prior sanction of the Government, He has further added that the Magistrate refused to listen to his plea and adjourned the case to 22-4-1968 after detaining him in the Court up to 5.00 p.m.
The General Manager is a gazetted officer and as the facts point out, is nto a party to the challans against the drivers. thereforee, it is nto understood how he could be prosecuted, All the same, I wish the Magistrate should have asked him to produce the real accused. In my opinion Shri Khurana should also have offered to produce them on the next hearing of the case. I request you kindly to look into these cases and determine whether the General Manager is really to be prosecuted in these cases or not. If not, then he may kindly be saved from further harassment. In case, in your opinion, his prosecution is justified, then the department would certainly like to engage a counsel on his behalf and have the cases decided on merit. So far as the accused drivers are concerned, I may assure you and also Shri Jindal that every effort will be made to produce them in the Court on 22-4-1968.'
This letter was apparently forwarded by Shri Suri to the District Magistrate, Delhi, for disposal. The Officer-in-charge (Judicial) acting on behalf of the District Magistrate, Delhi, forwarded it to Shri A. Jindal, Magistrate, First Class, with a request to send his comments thereon immediately. This was done on 25-4-1968. It was in these circumstances that Shri Jindal forwarded to the Registrar of this Court an application dated 31-5-1968 under Section 8 or the Contempt of Courts Act with a covering letter dated 3-6-1968 suggesting action against Shri P. L. Chhabra.
2, We may now turn to the facts of the cases stated to have been pending in the Court of Shri A. Jindal, in respect of which contempt of Court is alleged to have been committed. From the original records, I find that on 24-7-1964 a report was made by Shri Braham Pal Singh, H. C., addressed to Shri D. V. Kapoor, Traffic Magistrate, stating that on 18-3-1964 the General Manager, Punjab Roadways, Gurgaon, Punjab, had committed the offence of, to reproduce the exact words, 'disobeyed the traffic signal and the owner did nto reply the R.A.D.'. The place of the offence was stated to be 'Point Novelty Cinema' and the time '5-20 p.m.'. A request was made that action be taken against him under Sections 88/118-A of the Motor Vehicles Act. The documents relied upon were a notice and A.D. receipt. No copy of the notice seems to be traceable on the record. According to this report, 'the accused has been asked to appear on U/summons'. At the bottom of this document, the name and address of the accused is given as the General Manager, Punjab Roadways, Gurgaon, Punjab, the offence committed being under Sections 88/118-A, Motor Vehicles Act. The place where the Magistrate is expected to sign on this document is blank. The number of the vehicle mentioned in this report is Png 2430 (Bus).
8. In the second case again, the report is by Shri Braham Pal Singh, H.C., dated 24-7-1964, in which the vehicle concerned is Png 2436 (Bus). According to this report, on 21-3-1964, the General Manager, Punjab Roadways, Gurgaon, Punjab, had on 21-3-1964 at Point Tar Ghar, a G.P.O., Kashmere Gate, committed the offence of to reproduce tie exact words, 'disobeyed the traffic signal and the owner did nto give the reply of R.A.D.'. The sections under which the proceedings were stated to be taken were obviously Sections 88/ 118-A, Motor Vehicles Act.
4. The third case relates to vehicle No. Png 2149 (Bus) and is signed by one Chander Pal, H.C. This is dated 24-7-1964 and the offence is alleged to have been committed on 9-4-1964 at Punjab bus-stand, Ring Road, at 8-45 a.m. by the General Manager, Punjab Roadways, Gurgaon, Punjab. The offence mentioned is, to reproduce the exact words, 'parked his vehicle where no parking board was fixed and the owner did nto give reply of R.A.D.'. The postal acknowledgment receipt is attached with the papers, but no copy of the letter sent to the General Manager has been found by mo. The place where the Magistrate is expected to sign on this document is blank.
5. The fourth case pertains to vehicle No. Png 2440 (Bus) and its report is addressed to Shri D. V. Kapoor, Traffic Magistrate, Delhi, and according to this case, on 28-6-1964, the General Manager, Punjab Roadways, Gurgaon, at Delhi-Punjab border at 6-30 p.m. had committed an offence which is described in the following words:--
'It is reported by Shri Chetan Dass Tain, Eetd. Sessions Judge that he was traveling in the above bus from Gohana to Delhi when the bus entered the Delhi State, the above bus-overloaded by six passengers when Shri Jain demanded the complaint book. The conductor refused to give the same. He has misbehaved the fare-paying passenger. When this thing came to the notice of the driver, he sided the conductor and had abetted the offence. The conductor and the driver changed the route from Azadpur and have thus committed tho following offences under Sections 42/123, 4.38/112, 4.48/112, M. V. Act, and the owner did nto give the full particulars of driver and conductor (88/118-A, M. V. Act),'
This report appears to be scribed and signed by someone whose name cannto be fully deciphered. In the left-hand bottom corner, somebody has signed it and given the date '29/8'. The name of the accused at the bottom of this document is given as the General Manager, Punjab Roadways, Gurgaon, but the place where the Magistrate is expected to sign is blank.
6. In all the four cases, I find separate bonds executed by Shri B. S, Khurana, General Manager, Haryana Roadways, Gurgaon, in the sum of Rs.1,000 executed on 14-2-1968. As a matter of fact, proceedings in all the four cases started, so far as I can see from the record, on 11-3-1968. I also find from the record an order dated 29-7-1968 by Mrs. K. Pahwa, Magistrate, First Class, Delhi, holding that in all the four connected cases, it is essential that permission of the State Government should be obtained as required by Section 197, Criminal P. C., for further proceeding with the cases. The cases were, with this object, returned to the S.P. Traffic for obtaining necessary permission from the Haryana State. On 2-8-1968, there is an endorsement directing necessary permission of the Haryana State to be obtained under Section 197, Criminal P. C., but this is followed by another endorsement dated 3-8-1968, in which opinion of the prosecuting D.S.P, is sought to be obtained.
Then follows the opinion of someone dated 26-8-1968 which reads as under:--
'The opinion of the M.I.C. is obviously wrong. Our cases are nto hit by Section 197, Cr. P.G., for the reason that it applies to those Govt. servants who are removable by State or Central Government. Drivers do nto fall under this category. Secondly, it does nto apply to offences under the Motor Vehicles Act, Offence is defined in the Indian Penal Code and the definition given therein does nto cover offences under Motor Vehicles Act. Lastly, it is nto expected of drivers to commit offences and if they commit, they do so at their own risk.'
The misunderstanding of the case by the author of this note is obvious for the learn-ed Magistrate was dealing with the cases against the General Manager, Haryana Roadways and nto the drivers. However, nothing more need be said on this aspect because it does nto directly concern us at this stage in the present proceedings.
7. Contempt of Court can be said to be constituted by any conduct that tends to bring the authority and the administration of law into disrespect and disregard, or to interfere with or prejudice parties, litigants or their witnesses during the litigation. Proceedings by way of contempt being summary, and the Court being both the accuser and the Judge of the accusation, such proceedings have to be initiated in exceptional cases where there is a serious interference with the proceedings of the Court. The jurisdiction for committing for contempt being practically arbitrary and unlimited, must bo most jealously and carefully watched and exercised with the greatest reluctance and the greatest anxiety on the part of the Judges.
Wo are confining ourselves to the category of contempt of Court which unduly interferes with the judicial process because we are only concerned with such category in the case in hand. Administration of justice by an impartial and independent judiciary, which is trained to administer justice objectively, is the basis of our system of jurisprudence, as it is the basis of the jurisprudence of all the civilised societies. Any undue interference with pending proceedings is, thereforee, looked at with disfavor and is treated as contempt of the Court. But at the same time, the concept of contempt does nto imply that Courts should get unduly touchy and take action in respect of anything that may appear as ignoring their authority.
8. Judicial function is no doubt one of the most ancient and most persistent functions of Government and the methods employed to fulfilll these functions are of central importance in any political system. In our system, there is heirarchy of Courts of law and justice and they are enjoined to function in accordance with and under the law. Illegalities and errors of judgment are subject to supervision by the higher Courts. In certain cases, in the larger interests of justice, the superior Courts can also act suo motu in exercise of the power of superintendence and revision to see that the subordinate Courts keep themselves within the bounds of law. It is in this background that we propose to examine the present problem facing the Court.
In the case in hand, all that the letter written by Shri Chhabra to the learned Sessions Judge purports, broadly speaking, to do is to request the superior Court to see and verify as to what is the real situation on the facts and circumstances as disclosed in the letter. It is noteworthy that the learned Sessions Judge did nto consider anything objectionable in the letter addressed to him and took no action on the lines on winch the learned Magistrate has proceeded. The letter was forwarded to the District Magistrate in duo course so that the latter officer may go into it. The learned District Magistrate also, it: is worth noting, did nto consider that the letter amounted to any interference with the judicial duties of the learned Magistrate. He urgently asked for comments from the learned Magistrate as he was fully empowered to do. In these circumstances, one would have expected the learned Magistrate to forward his comments to the learned District Magistrate and leave it to that officer or to the learned Sessions Judge to take whatever steps they considered proper and necessary for the purpose of maintaining and preserving the dignity of the Court of Justice subordinate to them. This important aspect seems to have been ignored by the learned Magistrate. The present application by him to this Court direct, may suggest that he is anxious to discourage approach to his superior Courts with request to scrutinise the proceedings of cases pending and dealt with by his Court, which, if true, seems to us to be somewhat difficult to commend or encourage. An impression of this kind should have been avoided at all costs by the learned Magistrate ha the larger interests of our judicial process.
9. The learned Magistrate has perhaps, in his official zeal, adopted too doctrinaire an approach to the matter Ignoring the essential and basic purpose of the law of contempt. He seems to have been led away by excessive sensitiveness and he did nto deal with the problem in a cool manner behoving experienced judicial officers. Assuming Shri Chhabra, who is a very senior I.A.S. officer of Haryana, had done something improper in approaching the learned Sessions Judge by means of a letter, it was by no means a fit case for starting contempt of Court proceedings on its peculiar facts and circumstances. The. Court in contempt proceedings, has to act with great circumspection, making all allowances for errors of judgment, keeping in view the recognised and known difficulties arising from inveterate practices in Courts, particularly in traffic cases. The facts of the various cases, as disclosed on the record, quite clearly justify the anxiety felt by Shri Chhabra in the interest of proper functioning of his department in approaching the learned Sessions Judge, though it would have been better if the matter had been brought to the notice of the learned Sessions Judge by a formal Judicial application. There was, quite clearly, no contumacious conduct on the part of Shri Chhabra, nor could it be said that he tried unduly to interfere with the normal course of judicial process which called for invoking the drastic machinery of proceedings for contempt of Court It would have been a matter of great satisfaction to us if the learned Magistrate had, instead of approaching this Court for contempt of Court proceedings, looked at the record of the proceedings before him and tried to set right whatever was found wrong or unjust with those proceedings. The assertion that Shri B. S. Khurana had taken over at Gurgaon as General Manager only early in 1968, was sufficiently cogent and important to put any Court on guard and to impel it to take appropriate legal steps to see that justice was both done and seen to be done. Fixing of criminal liability by reference to office for violations of law by predecessors of the later incumbents of the office, is nto normal in our set-up and this consideration deserves to be kept in view even by Courts trying traffic offences.
10. We have no doubt that even now the requisite information about the identity of the drivers and others who are alleged to have violated the traffic regulations in Delhi, would be forthcoming from the Haryana authorities in a co-operative spirit. Those authorities, we must assume, are as much interested in observance of traffic regulations in Delhi by their drivers as they would be in observance of their traffic regulations in Haryana by drivers from Delhi. These two administrative sets-up in our Republic, as neighbors, are expected to co-operate with each other in promoting the cause of judicial process in their respective areas. The proceedings before the Traffic Courts are, we may point out, expected to be held strictly in accordance with law with the requisite judicial approach.
11. On a consideration of all the facts and circumstances of this case, we find no sufficient ground for taking action for contempt of Court and dismiss this application.
12. Petition dismissed.