Skip to content


Banarsi Lal Vs. Neelam and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal;Contempt of Court
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Revn. Nos. 413 and 414 of 1968
Judge
Reported inAIR1969Delhi304; 1969CriLJ1370
ActsCode of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) , 1898 - Sections 100, 107, 112, 435, 439, 528, 529, 530 and 537; Contempt of Courts Act, 1952 - Sections 1, 3 and 4; ;Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 - Sections 6; Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 - Sections 361; Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955 - Sections 7(1); Evidence Act, 1872 - Sections 114
AppellantBanarsi Lal
RespondentNeelam and ors.
Appellant Advocate P.N. Lekhi, Adv
Respondent Advocate Vijay Kishan and ; G.R. Chopra, Advs. and ;M.L. Nagpal (Person)
Cases ReferredShravan Kumar Gupta v. Superintendent District Jail
Excerpt:
.....in matters relating to custody of a minor child. - 413 of 1968, it is recommended by the learned additional sessions judge that the search warrants issued under section 100, criminal p. 414 of 1968, the learned additional sessions judge has recommended that the order made by the same learned sub-divisional magistrate on 12-2-1968 to the following effect, perused the papers of the file and heard the learned counsel for the complainant. i am satisfied that there exists an apprehension of breach of peace from the respondents narinder nath kohli, smt. ' the learned additional sessions judge has, in his order, strongly disapproved the conduct of the two learned advocates in drafting these grounds of revision and has observed that they should nto have been swayed by emotions of their..........of court.10. coming now to the merits of the recommendations of the learned additional sessions judge, shri lekhi vehemently opposed it. to begin with, the learned counsel has urged that ss. 435 and 439, criminal p. c, are nto attracted in this case. he has cited panna lal lahoti v. state of hyderabad air 1954 hyd 129, but i am unable to hold on the authority of this decision that the present revisions are incompetent. according to this decision. sections 435 and 439, criminal p. c, authorise interference by the high court even in a pending criminal case on the ground of illegality of procedure or harassment of the accused by an unjustified application of illegal procedure though of course such power has to be exercised sparingly and in cases of exceptional character. the power to.....
Judgment:
ORDER

1. These two revisions (Criminal Revisions Nos. 413 and 414 of 1968) have been placed before me pursuant to two orders made by a learned Additional Sessions Judge on 1-8-1968. In Criminal Revision No. 413 of 1968, It is recommended by the learned Additional Sessions Judge that the search warrants issued under Section 100, Criminal P. C. by Shri Gorakh Ram, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, for the recovery of the child from Smt. Neelam, the child's mother, at the instance of Shri Banarsi Lal, the child's father, is unsustainable in law and should be quashed.

2. In Criminal Revision No. 414 of 1968, the learned Additional Sessions Judge has recommended that the order made by the same learned Sub-Divisional Magistrate on 12-2-1968 to the following effect,

'Perused the papers of the file and heard the learned counsel for the complainant. I am satisfied that there exists an apprehension of breach of peace from the respondents Narinder Nath Kohli, Smt. Neelam, Smt, Lila Kohli and Smt, Bhagwati Kohli. Issue summons for their appearance on 27-2-68, The notice u/s. 107/112 Criminal P. C, be also sent along with the summons.'

Is unsustainable in law and deserves to be set aside. According to the learned Additional Sessions Judge, there being no legal order under Section 112, Criminal P. C. in the instant case, which was a condition precedent for proceeding under Section 107, Criminal P. C., the order issuing the notice is unsustainable.

3. The learned Additional Sessions Judge has also forwarded a petition moved by Shri Banarsi Lal against Smt. Neelam and her two counsel, Shri M. L, Nagpal and Miss Usha Mehra for contempt of Court on the ground that in the grounds of revision filed before the learned Additional Sessions Judge from the order of the learned Sub-Divisional Magistrate, paragraphs 4 and 5 thereof are couched in language which amounts to contempt of Court.

4. I would first dispose of the application for contempt of Court because on behalf of the respondent Shri Banarsi Lal, his learned counsel Shri P. N. Lekhi has raised a preliminary point to the effect that the petitioner Smt. Neelam being in contempt, this Court should nto hear her on the merits of the revision till she purges herself of the contempt. It may be pointed out that in the application for contempt of Court, presented on behalf of Shri Banarsi Lal. in the Court of the learned Additional Sessions Judge in April, 1968, action was sought nto only against Smt. Neelam, but also against her two Advocates who had signed the application for revision. In this Court also, up to the date of the final hearing, the allegations of contempt of Court against the two Advocates were nto dropped. It was only when the two Advocates were actually present in Court that during the course of arguments the learned counsel stated that he did nto want to press his application for contempt of Court against the two Advocates.

5. It is noteworthy that when the revision application was presented in the Court of the learned Additional Sessions Judge, the office did nto find anything objectionable with the grounds of revision and the revision was duly entertained without any objection. The two paragraphs in the grounds of revision, which formed the basis of the application for contempt of Court, read as under : --

'4. That the whole conduct of the learned Magistrate previously in issuing search warrants for the recovery and production of a minor child from the mother and the present proceedings smacks of the partisanship to the utter disregard of the judicial considerations of the case.

5. That these proceedings are a result of evident misuse of the process of the Criminal Court and are in contraventions to the provisions of the law as laid down In Chapter Viii of the Criminal P. C. motivated to harass and coerce the petitioner to come to terms with the respondent who claims to be a Community and Caste fellow of the learned Magistrate.'

The learned Additional Sessions Judge has, in his order, strongly disapproved the conduct of the two learned Advocates in drafting these grounds of revision and has observed that they should nto have been swayed by emotions of their client and that they should have declined to append their signatures to what is described as personal attack on the learned Magistrate's Court. On consideration of the Explanationn of the learned Advocates, the learned Additional Sessions Judge felt that a mere admonition would serve the cause of justice, but as he did nto consider himself competent to finally dispose of this matter, the record has been forwarded to this Court.

6. The respondent's learned counsel Shri Lekhi, has, as observed earlier, dropped the matter with reference to the learned Advocates, but he has addressed very lengthy arguments against Smt. Neelam. The two Advocates as well as Smt. Neelam have tendered an unqualified apology. Smt. Neelam has, while tendering unconditional and unequivocal apology, explained that the learned Magistrate had, without notice to her, passed the impugned order directing search warrants for her only infant son, just a few months old, on the assumption that her custody of her own child amounted to wrongful confinement and this action of the learned Magistrate had perturbed her very much. The learned Magistrate, according to her Explanationn, had even declined to allow her to inspect the record after she had come to know of the impugned order. She has emphasised that she merely wanted to have the impugned order quashed, without intending to cast any slur on the learned Magistrate's Court. In their replies in the Court of the learned Additional Sessions Judge, the Advocates and Smt. Neelam had, inter alia, pleaded that the contempt proceedings had been initiated to deter and embarrass the Advocates in the discharge of their professional duty and to make Smt. Neelam drop her pending litigation.

7. Shri Banarsi Lal (respondent in this Court), I should like to clarify, cannto claim a right either to pursue or to drop the charge of contempt of Court and he must be deemed to have discharged his duty--if he thought it was his duty--when he brought the relevant facts to the notice of the Court of the learned Additional Sessions Judge and thereafter of this Court. It was then for the Court of the learned Additional Sessions Judge or for this Court to take whatever action was considered appropriate for safeguarding the dignity of the learned Magistrate's Court. Shri Banarsi Lal could nto claim a right to press the matter as if it was his personal litigation. I have, however, beard the learned counsel for Shri Banarsi Lal at length because, according to his submission, he was entitled to insist that this Court should nto hear the counsel for Smt Neelam in support of the recommendation of the learned Additional Sessions Judge because she is in contempt. In regard to this submission as well, I must point out that the object of revisional jurisdiction is to confer upon the High Court a kind of supervisory power in order to correct miscarriage of justice arising from misconception and misapplication of law, irregularity of procedure and similar infirmities and that this power, which is discretionary in nature, is exercisable in the larger interest of justice. No party can thus insist, as a general rule, that his opponent should nto be heard by this Court. But this apart, the present matter being concerned with the allegation of contempt of Court, the relevant facts having been brought to the notice of this Court, the party doing so can scarcely have a further locus standi to claim a right to address this Court as to how the alleged contemner should be dealt with. It is of course open to this Court to ask for assistance from such party, if willing to assist. I must, however, nto be understood to negative or dwarf the broad general rule, which is subject to exceptions, that a party in contempt may nto be heard until he has purged his contempt. Speaking for my part, I would accept as just the general rule nto to hear a party in contempt only when the alleged contempt has the tendency of impeding the course of justice and when there is no other effective way of enforcing obedience.

8. Now, the alleged contempt of Court in the case in hand, consists of the use of objectionable language in the memorandum of the grounds of revision presented in the Court of the learned Additional Sessions Judge. The memorandum was presumably drafted by the professional lawyers. The mere fact that the memorandum also bears the signatures of the party, who is apparently ignorant of the technicalities of the law of contempt and who may well have felt safe in signing the memorandum drafted and signed by his Advocates, does nto seem to me, on the facts and circumstances of this case, to constitute actionable contempt by the petitioner. I would, thereforee, discharge the rule against her. I, however, must nto be understood to imply that ignorance of law is a defense or to lav down a general rule that a private party is immune from liability for contempt of Court merely because his lawyer has drafted the offending pleading. I consider it appropriate to point out once again that committal for contempt of Court is a weapon to be used sparingly and it is intended to be used with scrupu- lous care with reference to the interests of the administration of justice only, must nto be allowed to be used by the litigants as a lever for putting pressure on their opponents. That is a misuse of this power and the Courts have a duty to be vigilant in guarding against it. It is unnecessary to add that a deliberate or reckless contempt of Court, which is actionable, would nto go unnoticed. I have emphasised this caution because it is nto infrequently that this aspect is nto given the importance it deserves.

9. Adverting to the recommendation of the learned Additional Sessions Judge for taking action against the two learned Advocates, I should like to point out that forceful advocacy and even use of strong language in criticising on appeal or revision the impugned decisions of subordinate Courts is no contempt, but forceful advocacy and use of strong language does nto mean that an Advocate can scandalise the Court or impute to it unjudicial motives for which there is no reasonable basis on the circumstances of the case It is undeniable that no judiciary can function with the requisite efficiency in a set up like ours unless there is strong, efficient, conscientious and independent Bar and a weak, inefficient and unconscientious Bar is a somewhat ineffective corrective to an erring Court. The practice of law is nto a business which is open to all those who desire to engage in it. It is a personal right and privilege of an Advocate to represent his client, and claim audience, in Court in order to plead for him. An advocate's is an exalted and a learned profession in which privilege and duty coincide: the professional lawyer's privilege being also his duty and his duty being also his privilege. This indeed is essential if the quality of justice in our country is to be of the expected high order as contemplated by our Constitution.

An Advocate in our set-up practices nto only law, but also the science of the correct use of language. The words are indeed his tools with which he works. His is accordingly a word-bound profession. The language he uses must, thereforee, be precise, dignified, respectful and persuasive, free from injudicious annoyance or offence. Being entrusted with the duty and privilege of securing for his client justice according to law an Advocate is entitled to appropriate freedom and scope in criticising the impugned judgments and orders and in addressing arguments and making submissions on behalf of his client. Oral arguments by an Advocate, from their very nature, are relatively speaking, accorded greater latitude than written memorandum of appeal or revision. But this privilege, which is also his duty, does nto extend to imputing extraneous unjudicial motives to the subordinate Courts which cannto be substantiated or held to be reasonably justified on the record. If, however, they can be so substantiated, then I am unable to accede that such a submission or pleading would amount to actionable contempt of Court. Being an officer of the Court, it seems to be an Advocate's duty to uphold the dignity and prestige of the Courts in which he practices as also of the Courts, the orders of which it is his professional privilege and duty to criticise, consistently with his loyalty to his client's cause, which he is engaged to plead in accordance with law. The administration of justice cannto be impaired by clothing the professional Advocate with the freedom to fairly and temperately criticise in good faith the impugned judgments and orders.

When the judicial impartiality and prestige of Courts has solid foundations in their traditional judicious objectivity and efficiency, as illustrated by their day-to-day functioning in the public gaze, the mere strong language in criticising their orders, cannto mar their image. Such Courts should nto be hyper-sensitive in this matter. Examined according to this test, I am disinclined to hold that the paragraphs reproduced above constitute any actionable contempt of Court on the part of the Advocates. A fortiori there can be no actionable contempt by the petitioner. It was of course possible for the Advocates concerned to use more sober and restrained, though equally effective and persuasive, language, but then that is a question more of propriety than of contempt of Court- In this connection, it would nto be right for this Court to be completely unmindful of the progressively decreasing standard of the teaching of English language in our country. I do nto consider it proper to say anything more on this subject on this occasion except to emphasise once again that the summary power of punishing for contempt has to be used sparingly and only in serious cases. This Court must of necessity possess this power in the larger interest of sustaining the authority and impartiality of our judicial process, but its usefulness depends on the wisdom and restraint with which it is exercised. To use it against professional lawyers, when there is no malice and no attempt to impair or obstruct the administration of justice, but when they seem to have genuinely exercised their professional right of criticism (may be in somewhat ill-advised language) in seeking justice for their clients, is to use it for a purpose for which it does nto seem to have been intended. On the view that I have taken, it is unnecessary to discuss the various decisions cited by Shri Lekhi in support of the submission that Smt. Neelam. should nto be heard by this Court because she has committed contempt of Court.

10. Coming now to the merits of the recommendations of the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Shri Lekhi vehemently opposed it. To begin with, the learned counsel has urged that Ss. 435 and 439, Criminal P. C, are nto attracted in this case. He has cited Panna Lal Lahoti v. State of Hyderabad Air 1954 Hyd 129, but I am unable to hold on the authority of this decision that the present revisions are incompetent. According to this decision. Sections 435 and 439, Criminal P. C, authorise interference by the High Court even in a pending criminal case on the ground of illegality of procedure or harassment of the accused by an unjustified application of illegal procedure though of course such power has to be exercised sparingly and in cases of exceptional character. The power to interfere with an interlocutory order made by the lower Court also, according to this decision, vests in the Court of revision provided it finds that the impugned proceedings are seriously irregular- The power of the High Court in revision Under Section 439, Criminal P. C. has been held nto to be exhaustive in the reported judgment.

11. Dealing with Crl. Revision No. 413 of 1968, Shri Lekhi, the learned counsel for the respondent has read Section 100, Criminal P. C, and has pointed out that if the learned Magistrate below had reason to believe that any person was confined under such circumstances that the confinement amounted to an offence then he was empowered to issue a search warrant and the person, if found, had to be immediately taken before the Magistrate who was enjoined to make such order as seemed proper. In order to persuade this Court to hold that the Magistrate must be deemed to have satisfied himself that the confinement amounted to an offence, he has very strongly argued that Shri Banarsi Lal, his client, was entitled to the custody of his child and that Shrimati Neelam, though the natural mother of the child, was committing an offence in nto handing over the child to her husband. In regard to Section 6 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, he has submitted that it is only the custody of a minor under five years of age which is given to the mother. The father, according to the learned counsel, remains a natural guardian of his minor child and as such he cannto be held disentitled to the custody of his minor children, even though under five years of age.

The argument seems to me to be wholly unacceptable. Section 6 undoubtedly provides that the natural guardian of a Hindu minor boy and an unmarried girl is the father and after him the mother. This guardianship is in respect of minor's person as well as in respect of his property. But the proviso added to this rule relates to the custody of a minor who has nto completed the age of five years and this custody is ordinarily to be with the mother. In view of this explicit provision, I find it extremely difficult to hold that a mother's custody of her child under five years of age can be held to constitute a confinement amounting to an offence within the contemplation of Section 100, Criminal P. C. Shri Lekhi has tried to distinguish the decision of this Court in Smt. Ram Piari v. Sohan Lal 1968 DLt 148 on the ground that the scope and effect of Section 100, Criminal P. C, was nto considered in that case. The distinction sought to be made by the learned counsel is, in my view, illusory.

My attention has been drawn by Shri Lekhi to Vasudevan v. R. Viswalaksmi : AIR1959Ker403 according to which the right of the father to be the natural guardian of a Hindu minor is recognised in Section 6(a) of Hindu Minority and Guardinaship Act and he cannto be removed from his guardianship unless the Court is satisfied that he is unable to continue to be the guardian. This decision does nto lay down that a mother's custody of her child under five years of age constitutes an offence within the contemplation of Section 100, Criminal P. C.

The submission that the mother's custody in the present case amounts to an offence of kidnapping as contemplated by. Section 361, I. P. C, is still more difficult to uphold or even to appreciate. Reference to illustration (e) to Section 114, Indian Evidence Act is clearly inappropriate on the facts and circumstances of this case. When the order of the learned Magistrate is assailed on revision, then this Court has to go into the question on the material on the record and the permissive presumption under Section 114 illustration (e), Indian Evidence Act, can by no means be conclusive in favor of the legality of the order. The decisions in John Carapiet Galstaun v. Syed Mahammad Hussain Choudhury : AIR1932Cal627 and Sohagbati v. Sourendra Mohan Singh 44 Ind Cas 661 : AIR 1913 Pat 415 are wholly inapplicable to the present case.

12. The argument that the petitioner who is the natural mother of the infant child, is normally nto at home because she is working for her livelihood and, thereforee, her custody of the child is nto for the latter's benefit, has merely to be stated to be rejected in this case. During the course of arguments, the respondent's learned counsel, in his enthusiasm, also made certain oblique improper suggestions about the private life of Smt. Neelam which are wholly unsubstantiated from the record. It is difficult for this Court to appreciate such suggestions in the way in which they are made and it is of course nto possible to take notice of them.

The argument that an offence of kidnapping against Smt. Neelam, as contemplated by Section 361. I. P. C, has been made out, has to be merely stated to be rejected. The natural mother's custody of her child under five years of ago, on the facts and circumstances of this case, can by no stretch be considered to suggest an offence under this section. It is, thereforee, unnecessary to refer to the decisions in Empress v. Pran Krishna Surma (1882) 2 8 Cal 969 and Mohammad Hussain v. Emperor : AIR1925All295 and other cases dealing with the offences arising out of removal of minors from the custody of their lawful guardians.

As a last resort, Shri Lekhi concentrated on the Untouchability (Offences) Act No. 22 of 1955 and submitted that an offence under Section 7 (1) (c) of this Act, must be considered to have been committed by Smt. Neelam when she is nto permitting Shri Banarsi Lal to have access to his infant child. On this ground, the order issuing search warrants Is sought to be justified. The section relied upon, so far as relevant, reads as under:

'7. Punishment for other offences arising out of 'untouchability'.

(1) Whoever-

* * * * (c) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations 'or otherwise, incites or encourages any person or class of persons or the public generally to practice 'untouchability' in any form whatsoever; * * * *'

It is extremely difficult for me to hold that the custody of Smt. Neelam of her; own infant child amounts to an offence under this provision of law and that, for this reason, the learned Magistrate must be deemed to have reason to believe that the confinement amounts to an offence as contemplated by Section 100, Cr. P. C.

13. Section 100, Cr. P. C, is of course a provision of emergency, but this by itself does nto mean that the Magistrate acting under this Section is to issue warrants of search automatically without applying his judicial mind to the allegations contained in the application and to the other material which may be available to him. The expression 'reason to believe,' which is the real core of this Section, implies a belief in judicial mind arrived at after considering all the available material with a sense of responsibility and effort of mind, without ignoring, so far as possible, the other side of the controversy. This is a judicial duty and its performance rules out a superficial and arbitrary approach. The Magistrate must have reasonable grounds to believe that the confinement in question is such that it amounts to an offence. In my opinion, the impugned order of the learned Magistrate is difficult to sustain on the existing record and I am inclined to agree with the learned Additional Sessions Judge and quash the order issuing the search warrants.

14. Turning now to Criminal Revision No. 414 of 1968, the main ground on which Shri Lekhi has opposed the recommendation of the learned Additional Sessions Judge is that non-compliance with Section 112, Criminal P. C, is only an irregularity and, thereforee, in the absence of prejudice to the persons proceeded against, caused as a result thereof, there can be no cogent ground for interference on revision with the order of the learned Magistrate. In support of this submission, he has referred me to Sections 529, 530 and 537, Criminal P. C. The infirmity found by the learned Additional Sessions Judge in the order of the learned Magistrate, according to the counsel, is a mere irregularity and no prejudice has been shown to the present petitioner: the impugned order is thus immune from attack. He has principally relied on Abasu Begum v. Umda Khanum (1882) 2nd 8 Cal 724 and Raghimath Singh v. State : AIR1953Pat1 . Passing reference has also been made to other decisions cited by him before the learned Additional Sessions Judge.

15. In this Court, in Balraj Madhok v. Union of India Air 1967 Delhi 31, Hegde C. J., after considering the scheme of Chapter Viii of Criminal P. C., observed thus:--

'I am in entire agreement with Shri C. B. Aggarwala in his contention that without an order under Section 112 of the Code, the Magistrates had no competence to deal with the petitioners.'

The learned C. J. thereafter quoted with approval some passages from the judgment of a Division Bench prepared by Bhargava, J. in Shravan Kumar Gupta v. Superintendent District Jail, : AIR1957All189 . The infirmity in the case of Balraj Madhok. Air 1967 Delhi 31 led this Court to hold the impugned detentions to be illegal and the detenus in the nine writ petitions were ordered to be released. That decision is binding on me, It is true the plea of Irregularity was nto raised and, thereforee, nto discussed in that case apparently because the counsel for the State did nto consider the infirmity to be a mere irregularity.

However, assuming, without holding that non-compliance with Section 112, Criminal P. C. in the present case is only an irregularity, I am inclined, as at present advised, to hold that the question of failure of justice due to irregularity of procedure, as a general rule, assumes importance only if the challenge is raised after the conclusion of the proceeding when the final result of the case is known and it can scarcely be considered to possess cogency while the case is in its preliminary stages. Courts are clearly disinclined to approve or encourage in advance violations of statutory provisions merely because they may be considered to be directory, for it is to be remembered that even the directory provisions' of law are intended by the Parliament to be obeyed and the Courts cannto just ignore them. I have, thereforee, no hesitation in agreeing with the recommendations of Shri Dev Raj Khanna, Additional Sessions Judge, and so agreeing, I quash the impugned order of the learned Magistrate. The present order is, however, nto to be construed to contain any expression of opinion on the merits.

16. Before finally closing, I cannto help expressing this Court's concern and surprise at the manner in which both the cases have been dealt with by the learned Magistrate's Court. This was an unfortunate case, arising, it appears, out of some misunderstanding between the husband and the wife when there is also an offspring from their marriage. Misunderstandings, for some reason, seem to have reached a very high pitch. The learned Magistrate, who was duty-bound, in the discharge of his judicial functions, to put his mind in all cases coming before him, should have realised, after reading the contents of these applications, that these two cases were of an extraordinary nature requiring a deeper probe and more serious thought than seems to have been devoted to these cases. The Court record has created an impression in this Court that the learned Magistrate has dealt with these cases in a manner which is highly superficial and is far from complimentary to him.

Instances like the present neither enhance the prestige of the Courts of Magistrates nor do they inspire confidence in the minds of the litigants. Without pursuing the matter further, as observed earlier. I accept the recommendations of the learned Additional Sessions Judge and quash the two impugned orders. It is, however, hoped that an earnest effort would be made both by the husband and the wife to see that their differences are settled in a peaceful way because they are both educated young people haying respectable status In society, and if for no other reason, at least for the sake of their only offspring they would be well advised to try to adjust their differences. They have both to realise that each one of them has nto only rights but also obligations towards the other and they both owe to their child heavy duty, for the discharge of which they must put up with the nor mal jars and shocks of ordinary married life. In case of absolute impossibility of reconciliation which this Court hopes is nto the case being highly educated per sons of respectable status, they should sit down and amicably come to an agreed arrangement in a rational way in the best interests of all the three parties and nto resort to acts of violence or to criminal Courts.

17. Revisions allowed.


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