Avadh Behari Rohatgi, J. (Oral)
(1) This is a contempt petition under ss. 11 and 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (the Act). As far back as 1964, Sharafuddin and Shahabuddid made an application for ejectment of their tenant, Mohammed Din. from premises No. 7687, Ward No. Xiv, Gali Takhat Wali Qasabpura, Delhi. The Additional Rent Controller passed an order of eviction on 18th August, 1967. The order of eviction was passed on the ground of bona fide requirement of the landlords. Mohammed Din did not file any appeal. So the order of eviction became final.
(2) In 1968 the tenant Mohammed Din died leaving behind a widow, three sons and two daughters. In January, 1975 the widow also died. On 27th February, 1976, one of the tenant's son and daughter, namely, Saleemuddin and Mst. Ameequan, filed objections under ss. 3 and 4 of the Delhi Rent Control (Amendment) Act, 1976. They claimed that they were covered by the definition of the term 'tenant' and could not thereforee be ejected in execution of the eviction order. On 26th March, 1976, the Additional Rent Controller dismissed their objections as not maintainable. As the decree of eviction was passed against Mohammed Din in his life time the right of tenancy could not devolve on his heirs. This in short was the answer to the objections.
(3) Saleemuddin and Ameequan appealed to the Rent Control Tribunal. The Tribunal dismissed their appeal on 18th October, 1976.
(4) One important fact may be noticed here. When the appeal was brought Saleemuddin and Ameequan asked for stay of execution of the eviction proceedings. The tribunal granted stay on 29th March, 1976 on the appellants' furnishing security in the sum of Rs. 5000 for the due performance of the decree or order that may be passed in the appeal. In pursuance of this order a bond of Rs. 5000 was furnished by Saffiquiddin S/o. Sadruddin on 6.th April, 1976. Saffiquiddin is father-in-law of Saleemuddin, one of the objectors. The tribunal dismissed the appeal, as I have said. And the landlords are now taking proceedings for the enforcement of the surety bond.
(5) Saleemuddin and Ameequan carried the matter in further appeal to the High Court. In November, 1976 they filed a second appeal against the Tribunal's order dated 18th October, 1976 rejecting their objections. The appeal came for hearing before B. C. Misra J. on 7th April, 1977. Saleemuddin made a statement before the Judge. He admitted the correctness of the order of eviction. He did not press his appeal. He asked for time to vacate the premises by 31st December, 1977. To this effect he gave an undertaking to the court which was accepted. Accepting the undertaking B. C. Misra J. dismissed the appeal but directed that the order of eviction will not be executed before 31st December. 1977.
(6) A few days before 31st December, 1977, Haseenuddin, another son of Mohd. Din, filed a suit for declaration on 8th December, 1977, claiming that the eviction order passed against Mohammed Din was inexecutable against him. In the suit he claimed an interim injunction restraining the landlords from executing the eviction order. But stay was refused.
(7) On January 1, 1978, the landlords made an application turn execution. When the warrant of possession was sought to be executed by the landlords they were met with resistance. On, January 6, 1978, the bailiff made a report to the court that the premises were locked and he cannot deliver possession till he is empowered to break open the locks and doors.
(8) On January 9, 1978, one Mohd. Shariff filed objections in the execution proceedings before the Additional Controller claiming that he was in possession of the premises since 1951-52 and thereforee warrant of possession should not be issued. These objections of Mohd. Shariff are still pending.
(9) Counsel for the landlords has argued that the suit filed by Haseenuddin and the objections filed by Mohd. Shariff are at the instigation of Saleemuddin as he is the main man, the moving spirit, behind the scenes and his object is to delay the execution of the eviction order. He has also argued that it has not been possible to enforce the surety bond so far though an application for this purpose was moved in court by him on 31st January, 1978. The reason is that the surety. Saleemuddin's father-in-law, has been evading service, and thereforee the amount of the bond has not been realised.
(10) On February 6, 1978, the landlords moved this contempt application.
(11) The landlords urge that contempt proceedings be taken against Saleemuddin on the basis of the undertaking given to the Court. Before B. C. Misra J. an undertaking was given by Saleemuddin in these terms :
'1. On behalf of appellant No. 2 and myself I accept the correctness of the order for eviction that has been confirmed by the Rent Control Tribunal and do not wish to press this appeal. 2. Appellant No. 2 has already vacated the premises in dispute and is not residing there. The respondents 3, 4 and 5 are also not residing in the premises in dispute at all and have no concern with the premises in dispute. 3. I want a little more time to vacate the premises in dispute and obey the order for eviction. 4. I undertake to vacate and deliver the 'actual possession of the premises in dispute to the respondents/landlords against B their receipt on or before 31st December, 1977. 5. I give this undertaking to vacate to the Court and I am conscious of the fact that if I commit default herein I will be liable for the consequences of the breach (of the undertaking) given to the Court'.
(12) Other clauses in the statement of Saleemuddin relate to the payment of the areas of rent and future rent. Saleemuddin's counsel, ) Mr. V. B. Andley, also made a statement to the same effect. The learned judge accepted the undertaking and gave time to Saleemuddin to vacate the premises on or before 31st December, 1977.
(13) Now it is a clear case of breach of an undertaking given by ' Saleemuddin to the court in which he agreed and bound himself to vacate and deliver the actual possession of the premises in dispute to the landlords against their receipt on or before 31st December, 1977. B. C. Misra J. in his order said :
'The appellants have admitted the correctness of the order for eviction that had been passed by the Rent Control Tribunal and they do not wish to press this appeal. Appellant No. I, however, wants time to vacate the premises. He has undertaken to vacate and deliver the actual possession of the premises in dispute to the respondents/landlords against their receipt on or before 31st December, 1977. His undertaking is accepted.'
The landlords applied for execution after 31st December, 1977 but they have not been able to obtain possession so far. What has happened to the undertaking
(14) In my judgment it is a case of the grossest contempt. Saleemuddin is guilty of the breach of the undertaking. He stated before the judge that no one else was residing in the premises. He undertook to vacate and deliver actual possession to the landlords on or before 31st December, 1977. He also stated that he knew the serious consequences of not honouring his undertaking. He said ; 'I am conscious of the fact that if I commit default herein I will be liable for the consequences of the breach of the undertaking given, to the court. 'Saieemuddin's undertaking was accepted by the Court in so many words. He was given time to vacate the premises by 31st December, 1977. This benefit of time was enjoyed by Saleemuddin who stayed in the premises till 31st December, 1977- But he has not delivered possession even till today. He has not complied with his undertaking. He undertook to 'obey that order of eviction' and was given 'a little more time to vacate the premises' in terms of his request.
(15) Mr. Sawhney on behalf of Saleemuddin has submitted that Saleemuddin is helpless in delivering possession as members of the family of Haseenuddin, who is now-lodged in jail, are residing in the disputed premises and they do not vacate and allow him to deliver the possession. It will be recalled that Haseenuddin was a party to the objections filed by Saleemuddin. There he was imp leaded as respondent No. 5. As regards him Saleemuddin stated before B. C. Misra J. that he was not residing in the premises in dispute at all and had no concern with them- If that was so, on 7th April, 1977 when Saleemuddin made the statement, how can it now be urged with any show of reason that Saleemuddin is unable to deliver the possession.
(16) Saleemuddin gave a solemn undertaking to the court to vacate the premises by 31st December, 1977. He was not unmindful of the fact that if he committed default in honouring his undertaking he will be liable for the consequences of the breach of the undertaking given to the court.
(17) 'CIVIL contempt' is defined in s. 2(b) of the Act as a 'willful breach of the undertaking given to a court.' In Halsbury's Laws of England (4th edition) Vol. 9 at page 44 it is said :
'An undertaking given to the court by a person or corporation in pending proceedings, on the faith of which the court sanctions a particular course of action or inaction, has the same force as an injunction made by the court and a breach of the undertaking is misconduct amounting to contempt.'
(18) An undertaking entered into with or given to the court by a party has exactly the same force as an order made by the court, and accordingly breach of an undertaking amounts to a contempt in the same way as a breach of an injunction. (Gordon Borrie & Lowe--The Law of Contempt page 325).
(19) I find that the breach is willful. Saleemuddin has broken the terms of the undertaking. He is setting up Haseenuddin's possession and taking shelter behind him. This is a case of blatant breach of the undertaking given to an accepted by a court of law. Saleemuddin's counsel was present on 7th April, 1977. He also made a statement in the same terms.
(20) HASEENUDDIN'S suit and Mohd. Shariff objections to which I have referred are engineered proceedings which seems to have been brought at the instance of Saleemuddin. To cap all, the judgment debtors are obstructing the execution proceedings. It has not been possible even to enforce the surety bond dated 6th April, 1976. All along the line there is willful refusal to obey the orders of the court. Saleemuddin has shown scant respect for the law. His attitude is one of defiance.
(21) Counsel for the contemner submits that I will not be justified in recording a finding that Haseenuddin suit and Mohd. Shariff's objections were instituted at the instigation of Saleemuddin. I do not think the finding is without a reasonable basis. The course of proceedings and the conduct of the parties, their relationship all suggest that the suit and the objections are intended to delay delivery of possession. In any event Saleemuddin is not released from his undertaking. Once a party has given an undertaking to the court he is bound by its terms. I found my decision on Saleemuddin's undertaking given to the court on 7th April, 1977 and the breach of that undertaking. The terms of the undertaking and the breach are clear beyond question. Saleemuddin is guilty of the breach of the undertaking. The breach of an undertaking is liable to be visited by the same punishment as breach of an injunction. Saleemuddin is thereforee punishable in contempt. This is my conclusion.
(22) Counsel for the contemner does not dispute the undertaking but has merely pleaded contemners helplessness because he says Haseenuddin's family is in possession and they do not allow him to deliver possession. This is no answer. There is a willful breach of the undertaking given to the court. Counsel for the contemner says that though technically there is a breach it is not willful. I do not agree. It is a case of willful, deliberate and flagrant breach of the undertaking given to a court of law. The entire course of proceedings right from 1976 when the objections were filed clearly shows that by one device or another the landlords have been kept oat of possession. Even the undertaking before this court has not been fulfillled. The court has been mocked at with impunity. If this bleach is not willful and deliberate how else shall we characterise it.
(23) Even today when I asked the contemner to deliver the possession he did not relent from his original stand. The affidavit filed by him today merely states that he is a poor man having a family of five children to support. Haseenuddin, it is said, is serving life sentence in a murder case and his objection that he is a tenant are pending adjudication It is said that the contemner is an illiterate man and did not know what he was doing when he made the statement before D. C. Misra J. on 7th April, 1977. None of these averments is an answer to the contempt committed by Saleemuddin. If anything, they aggravate the contempt as there are no signs of a contrite heart.
(24) For these reasons I hold Saleemuddin to be guilty of contempt of court. I sentence him to simple imprisonment for six months and a fine of Rs. 2,000 under s. 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. The contemner is present in court. He is ordered to be taken in custody.
(25) I have awarded the maximum punishment. Saleemuddin does not deserve a light sentence. He is contutaiacious. Everything that he does breathes defiance. With such cases of defiance as this one we have to grapple with hoofs of steel.
(26) Counsel for the landlords submits that warrant of possession - be also issued as the undertaking was given to this court and this court ought to enforce it. The court is not powerless to deliver possession to the landlords. The court has the power to enforce an, undertaking. It can be enforced by committal. It can be enforced by execution. I thereforee accept this prayer and order that a warrant of possession be issued in respect of premises No. 7687 Ward No. Xiv, Gali Takhat Wali, Qasabpura, Delhi. Police aid be given to the landlords for obtaining possession of the premises as there has been resistance to the delivery of possession in the past.