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Kedar Nath Vs. Municipal Corporation of Delhi - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectContempt of Court
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Original Appeal No. 14 of 1969
Judge
Reported in1969CriLJ1571; 5(1969)DLT685
ActsContempt of Court Act, 1952 - Sections 3
AppellantKedar Nath
RespondentMunicipal Corporation of Delhi
Advocates: O.P. Malhotra,; B. Dayal and; D.D. Chawla, Advs
Cases ReferredNarain Singh v. S. Hardayal Singh and Express Newspapers Ltd.
Excerpt:
.....order 39 rule 5 of civil procedure code, 1908. - - 2 and 4 are also guilty of contempt, as they issued notices of demand knowing fully well, that the plaintiff had obtained a decree against the respondent corporation. we may, however, in passing point out that the general and modern rule seems clearly to uphold the liability of a corporation to be punished for contempt for disobeying inductions and orders of a court of justice made within its jurisdiction. it was, thereforee, the bounden duty of the corporation and of its officers to take suitable steps for effectively complying with this injunction. an august body like the municipal corporation of delhi consisting as it does of the chosen representatives of the residents of the union capital, is expected to show due respect and..........and circumstances of the case. (5) the facts are nto in dispute. the respondents nos. 2 and 4 had issued notices of demand to the petitioner, and the amount demanded, admittedly included the amount due on account of water-tax, in respect of the petitioner's property bearing no. 1247 to 1253. the petitioner had obtained a decree for permanent injunction against the defendant municipal corporation of delhi, restraining it from levying or charging arty water-tax in respect of the said property till it provides water connection to that building. this is also admitted that no water connection has so far been provided in that property. the defense of the respondents is, that they are justified in levying or charging water-tax, as public notice under section 115 of the d. m. c. act had infact.....
Judgment:

I.D. Dua, C.J.

(1) The following report dated 28th January, 1969 was submitted to this Court by Shri H. L. Garg, Subordinate Judge 1st Class, Delhi :-

'THE petitioner is the owner of building bearing Municipal No. 1247 to 1253, situated in Mohalla Sangtrashan, Paharganj, New Delhi. The respondent Municipal Corporation of Delhi, levied water tax on the said building and sent a demand notice to the plaintiff'.

There upon, the plaintiff brought a suit No. 16/1968 against the Corporation seeking permanent injunction against it restraining it from levying or charging any water tax in respect of aforesaid building till the Corporation provides water connection in the building. The said suit was decreed on 6th January, 1963. The plaintiff also sent a copy of that judgment to the Assessor and Collector Pahar Ganj, Zone. However in spite of that the respondent levied as sum of Rs 393/05 as property taxes, inclusive of water tax, for the period ending 31st March, 1966. The plaintiff represented that he was nto liable to pay any water tax till the water supply was made available in the building. However, still the respondent's proceeded to recover the amount by attaching the rent accruing due to him from the tenants of that property. In this manner, the respondent No. 2, issued the notice sought to recover the property taxes inclusive of water-tax for the period up to 31st March, 1967. It has been alleged that this conduct on the part of The respondents amounts to willful and intentional disregard of the court's decree as the respondents had been duly intimated, and they had full knowledge of the decree passed in his suit. The petitioner, thereforee, brought this application under section 3 of the Contempt of Court's Act, and prayed that the respondents be held guilty of committing contempt of court, and that they be ordered to withdraw the demand notices, relating to payment of water tax.

(2) The petitioner made another application dated 23rd August, 1968 wherein it is stated that the respondents had again, vide its bill dated 2nd August, 1968 demanded water tax for the years 1968-69 and directed him to deposit the same. It is stated further, that this persistent defiant attitude constituted clear contempt of court, and that they should be punished for the same.

(3) In the reply filed on behalf of the respondents it was stated that the petitioner's suit had been decreed mainly on the ground that no public notice as required under section 115 of the D. M. C. Act had been issued or published. It was stated further, that since such a notice had been given by the Commissioner of the Corporation on 1st April, 1959, they were entitled to levy water-tax, although, the said notice could nto be produced during the trial of the suit for want of availability of record. It is further stated, that the petitioner can claim refund/ adjustment of the water tax paid by him for the year ending 31st March, 1965, but he is liable to pay the water-tax for the subsequent period, as public notice had been issued, and the levy of water-tax was legal. It was maintained that the respondents have full regard for the orders of the court and that they have nto committed any contempt of court.

(4) I have heard the learned counsel for the parties and have also considered the facts and circumstances of the case.

(5) The facts are nto in dispute. The respondents Nos. 2 and 4 had issued notices of demand to the petitioner, and the amount demanded, admittedly included the amount due on account of water-tax, in respect of the petitioner's property bearing No. 1247 to 1253. The petitioner had obtained a decree for permanent injunction against the defendant Municipal Corporation of Delhi, restraining it from levying or charging arty water-tax in respect of the said property till it provides water connection to that building. This is also admitted that no water connection has so far been provided in that property. The defense of the respondents is, that they are justified in levying or charging water-tax, as public notice under section 115 of the D. M. C. Act had infact been issued but the same could nto be produced, during the trial of the suit. In support of this defense, the respondent had produced a copy of the public notice dated 1st April. 1959 issued under section 115. On the face of it, even if it is assumed, that this notice was issued, it does nto advance the defense of the respondents any further. It is stated in this notice, that public notices specifying the portions of Delhi in which water tax will be loveable have been given as required under section 115. The respondents have nto produced the public notice, that was issued with respect to the area or portion of Delhi in which the property in question falls. As a matter of fact, the copy of the public notice produced cannto be construed to be a public notice under section 115 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act. It is only an information, that public notices under section 115 had already been issued, and the person concerned may inspect the same at the enquiry office. Town Hall, Chandni Chowk, Delhi, or in other offices of the respondent corporation. The respondents have nto produced the relevant public notices applicable to that portion of Delhi, in which the property in question is situated.

(6) Even if it is assumed for the sake of argument that such a public notice had been issued, even then I do nto think, if the respondents were justified in levying or demanding water-tax from the plaintiff in respect of the property in question as the said public notices had been found to be non-existent and if the respondents wanted to levy water-tax, then they ought to have issued another public notice, because the previous public notice did nto exist in law. The respondents had full opportunity of adducing their evidence at the trial stage. The decree of the trial court was challenged in apneal, but the same was affirmed by the learned Appellate court. The respondent corporation filed a second appeal against the decree and judgment of the first appellate Court. That appeal was also dismissed, it appears that the respondent corporation never made an application in any court, that the required public notice had been issued and it may be allowed to produce the same. A body or person against whom a decree is passed is bound to obey that decree, even if it was erroneous. The person against whom a decree is passed has to obey it, so long as that decree and judgment is nto set aside in appeal or otherwise. In the present case, the decree and judgment of the trial court had been upheld even by the Hon'ble High Court. Thus, it was a clear case in which the respondents had committed contempt of the court by disobeying the decree.

(7) The respondents 1 and 3 would be liable for contempt of court, even if they had no specific knowledge about the decree. In this case, even the respondents Nos. 2 and 4 are also guilty of contempt, as they issued notices of demand knowing fully well, that the plaintiff had obtained a decree against the respondent corporation. The respondents Nos. 2 and 4 are the officers of the respondent Corporation and a decree or order is binding on all the officers (of the Corporation) to whose knowledge it comes. It was so laid down by the Hon'ble Mr' Justice Tek Chand of the Punjab High Court in case Nararin Singh, v. Sardar Hardayal Singh reported. Thus, in my opinion, all the respondents a.re guilty of contempt of court, and they should be dealt with accordingly.

(8) In the result, I am submitting this report before the Hon'ble High Court for taking appropriate action against the respondents under section 3 of the Contempt of Court's Act, 1952.

PRONOUNCED. The counsel of the Parties are present. Dated 28th January, 1969. (Sd.) H.L. Garg, P.C.S., Sub Judge 1st Class, Delhi.'

Pursuant to this report, we directed notices to go to respondents Nos. 1 to 4 on 26th March, 1969. On 14th April, 1969, Shri Bishamber Dayal asked for adjournment for one week which was granted. On 21st April, 1969, after reading the reply of Shri R. N. Chopra, Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, we discharged the rule against him. In regard to the other alleged contemners, we requested Shri O. P. Malhotra to assist this Court in these proceedings. Shri D. D. Chawala has appeared for Shri Om Parkash and Shri Gurbachan Singh, the alleged contemners, and Shri Bishambar Dayal had appeared on behalf of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to show cause against the rule under the Contempt of Courts Act. Shri Gurbachan Singh's affidavit dated 19th April, 1969 seeks to justify the demand notice for water-tax issued on 16th May, 1966 on the ground that he had no knowledge whatsoever of the trial Court's decree dated 6th January, 1966 and that the demand notice had been issued bona fide in the ordinary routine. He has also stated therein that the trial Court's Seriall No. 785 dated 20th May, 1967. Shri Om Parkash Gupta, Assistant Assessor and Collector (S.C.) M.C.D. issued notice dated 7th August, 1967 of attachment of rents with tenants of the property in question. Shri Om Parkash Gupta was informed of the injunction issued by the learned Subordinate Judge restraining the Corporation to recover water- tax which was included in the notices by the Municipal Corporation, but Shri Om Parkash Gupta did nto pay any heed. Even during the pendency of the contempt of Court proceedings before the learned Subordinate Judge, Shri Kedar Nath is stated to have received a bill dated 2nd August, 1968 signed by Shri Mange Ram. This bill also includes in addition to water-tax for the years 1968-69 arrears of water tax for the previous years. On receiving this demand from Shri Mange Ram, Shri Kedar Nath claims to have moved an application dated 23rd August, 1968. In paragraph 10 of this affidavit, it has been sworn that in the lower Court, the alleged contemners had nto pleaded ignorance of the judgment and decree of that Court. Annexed with this affidavit, is Annexure 'B' which purports to be a demand notice dated 16th May, 1966 signed by Shri Gurbachan Singh, Assistant Assessor and Collector. It has been asserted in this demand notice that Rs. 393.05 were due on account of property tax for the year ending 31st March, 1966 and in spite of many requests, payment had nto been made.

(11) Without elaborately dealing with the affidavits produced on behalf of the alleged contemners, it may be stated that the main defense on behalf of Shri Om Parkash and Shri Gurbachan Singh is want of knowledge on their part of the impugned decree in question. The Municipal Corporation, it may be pointed out. has tendered an unqualified apology through Shri B .N. Seth, Deputy Commissioner (Tax) as per his affidavit dated 21st May, 1969. It is true that the Corporation did nto offer an unqualified apology at the curliest stage, when, consistently with its responsible character, it should have done so, but that seems to us to be due to want of proper legal advice at that stage As the liability of the Corporation for disobedience of the Court's injection in proceedings for contempt has nto been questioned on its behalf, we need nto dilate upon it. We may, however, in passing point out that the general and modern rule seems clearly to uphold the liability of a Corporation to be punished for contempt for disobeying inductions and orders of a Court of justice made within its jurisdiction. The decisions of the Punjab High Court in Narain Singh v. S. Hardayal Singh and Express Newspapers Ltd. v. M/s. Raising Publications Pvt. Ltd. are clear authorities on the point that Corporations are subject to punishment for contempt of Court. Now, there can be no dispute that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi had been prohibited by a competent Court by means of an injunction from levying or charging any water-tax in respect of the petitioner's property till water connection was provided to the building in question. It was, thereforee, the bounden duty of the Corporation and of its officers to take suitable steps for effectively complying with this injunction. Order 39, Rule 5, Civil Procedure Code, in express terms provides that an injunction directed to a Corporation is binding nto only on the Corporation itself but also on all members and officers of the Corporation whose personal action it seeks to restrain. The basic purpose underlying this provision of law cannto but be held to enjoin the Municipal Corporation to take all such effective steps as were necessary for ensuring that the Court's injunction was obeyed. Indeed, in our view, even without such an express provision, it was incumbent on the Corporation under the general principles of law to take all such steps so that the Court's injunction was nto rendered ineffective. To treat an injunction against a Corporation to be outside the operation of the laws of contempt of Court would tend to subdue the importance of the Court and destroy their authority and may further embolden the licentious officers of all Corporations to trample upon the mandates of Courts which are deemed in our set up to be the guardians of justice. It may also shake men's allegience to be laws The suggestion that there has been an unfortunate omission to take full note of the injunction of the Court and the further suggestion that there was a proposal to file an appeal there from, has nto impressed us as a justification for violating the injunction order. It is nto even an appropriate mitigating circumstance on the (acts and circumstances of this case. It was, in our opinion, for the officers of the Corporation to consult their legal advisers, who, we have little doubt, would have advised them that so long as the injunction was nto stayed or nto reversed by a competent Court, it had to be obeyed. An august body like the Municipal Corporation of Delhi consisting as it does of the chosen representatives of the residents of the Union capital, is expected to show due respect and allegience to the orders of Courts of law and justice. This Court would nto only be failing in its duty but would perhaps be damaging the venerability of the Courts and of the Rule of Law in the eyes of the public if it were to treat lightly the violation of the injunction by the Corporation in this case. The Corporation, thereforee, must be deemed to have committed a serious contempt of Court and we are constrained to find it guilty and to punish it with fine of Rs. 100.00

(12) We are fully conscious of the caution with which we have to approach cases for committal for contempt of Court. It is of course axiomatic that it is a weapon to be used sparingly and always with reference to the interests of the administration of justice. Jurisdiction to commit for contempt of Court requires to be exercised with scrupulous care and only when the case is clear and beyond reasonable doubt. We have also taken due note of the apology tendered by the Corporation, without ignoring the rule that an apology has to be offered clearly and at the earliest opportunity. Belated apology may nto be accepted, for the delay may negative contrition which is the essence of the purging of a contempt. Keeping all these considerations in view, we must say that we have been somewhat lenient with the Corporation because apparently, all does nto seem to be well with its legal department and then the burden of fine has also ultimately to fall on the tax-payer. But we hope that in future, such a responsible body would Fee that its law department and its officers who are entrusted with litigation, as indeed all of its officers, obey the orders of the Courts with appropriate sense of anxiety and further take effective steps to ensure their compliance by all concerned. It is also hoped that those who are likely, by their acts of commission and omission, do expose the Corporation to proceedings for contempt of Court, are suitably dealt with and appropriately cautioned against future recurrence of such lapses.

(13) Coming now to the case of the other two alleged contemners in our opinion, it wa.s incumbent on both of them to keep themselves properly informed of the result of the litigation, to which the Municipal Corporation was aparty defendant, and in which an injunction was being sought against it. A lawyer duly represented the Corporation in those proceedings. The Corporation must obviously have been defending this litigation through some human agency. The officer dealing with the Lawyer on behalf of the Corporation must be deemed to have become aware of the order made by the Court and he must be assumed to have duly intimated the order of the Court to all those who were employed by the Corporation for performing their duties affected by that order. There is nothing to show to the contrary viz. that the said officer did nto perform all duty in this respect. The plea of Shri Gurbachan Singh that he was all along unaware of the order of the Court is un impressive. and indeed we are very unhappy to notice some of the denials shown by him. Prima facie, those denials are nto readily acceptable. The petitioners averment regarding the receipt of the letter dated 21st February, 1966, is prima facie, plausible and Shri Gurbachan Singh's denial of its receipt or of the knowledge of its contents, seem to us to have little persuasive force. The attitude adopted by Shri Gurbachan Singh and Shri Om Parkash in. trying to justify their action and in failing to offer unqualified apology and at the earliest opportunity, has left us cold. We entertain little doubt that both of them were or at least could have been, fully aware of the injunction order in this case if they had acted with rea.sonab!e care and diligence expected of them in the discharge of their official duties. They have nto cared to place any material before us which would show that the lawyer who represented the Corporation in the litigation in question had nto given due information oi the injunction to the Corporation or to the officer entrusted with the duty of carrying out the orders of the Court in those proceedings. The suggestion on behalf of the Corporation that the impugned injunction was sought to be appealed against confirms our view that the litigation section of the corporation was fully aware of the injunction order. The litigation section, in the absence of convincing Explanationn must also be deemed to have informed the officers concerned about the order of the Court. In fact, Annexure 'A' dated 20th July, 1967 attached to the affidavit of Shri R. K. Sinha (the present Law Officer of the Corporation shows that the appeal was dismissed by the High Court in liming on 17th July, 1967 and the lawyer of the Corporation had advised it to obey the injunction. Quite clearly, no question of Shri Gurbachan Singh and Shri Om Parkash being personally served separately with the injunction order arises. The sworn affidavits that they were nto aware of this order, seems to suggest that these two officers were perhaps too inefficient to know their job and if they did nto take requisite steps for informing themselves of the contents of the injunction order, it was a lapse of a serious nature on their part. They cannto be completely absolved of the blame in violating the Court's injunction. Whether or nto the Corporation would be justified in assigning to them any work of responsible character in which obedience of the orders of the Courts of law and justice is involved, is a matter for the Corporation to consider. In so far as punishment for contempt of Court is concerned, we feel that in the background of the inefficiency in the concerned department of the Corporation as disclosed on this record and of all the other attending circumstances of the case, a stern warning to these contemners would serve the ends of justice. We have taken this lenient view because we feel that they must have been put to considerable expense in engaging a separate counsel for them. The counsel for the Corporation was nto entrusted with their defense and the Corporation may nto defend them at public expense unless they are shown to have violated the Court's order in the due discharge of their official duty or under orders of the Corporation. Their official duty did nto enjoin them to violate the Court's order. We are far from satisfied of their bona fides. The petitioner is, in our opinion, also entitled to his costs against fill the three parties viz , the Municipal Corporation of Delhi Shri Gurbachan Singh and Shri Om Parkash which we fix at Rs. 150.00 (Rs. 50.00 to be paid by each one of them.)


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