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Kashmere Gate Charitable Trust Vs. M.G. Shahni and Co. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectContempt of Court
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 202 of 1978
Judge
Reported inILR1980Delhi467; 1980RLR580
ActsDelhi Rent Control Act, 1958 - Sections 38 and 144; Contempt of Court Act, 1971 - Sections 2
AppellantKashmere Gate Charitable Trust
RespondentM.G. Shahni and Co.
Advocates: Rameshwar Dayal,; Ramesh Chand,; A.B.Dayal and;
Cases Referred(Champan v. Honia
Excerpt:
contempt of courts act (1971) - section 2(b)--delhi rent control act , 1958.; in the instant case the question whether the secretary of the appellant trust committed contempt of court by refusing to deliver possession to the respondent company of godown (no. 1350) in pursuance of an undertaking given to the court arose in the following circumstances.; the appellant landlord filed a petition against the tenant for ejectment from godown no. 1350 on the ground of section 22 of the delhi rent control act, 1958, that it was a public institution and the premises were required for the furtherance of its activities. the respondent a sub-tenant in the premises, was never made a party before the rent controller. nevertheless the controller passed the order of eviction against the tenant in.....avadh behari rohtagi, j.(1) in this appeal two powerful litigants are locked in battle. one is a trust and the other a company. the appellant landlord is kashmere gate charitable trust. shri k.s. bhatnagar is one of the trustees of the trust and its secretary. the constesting respondent on the other other side is m/s. m.g shahni & co. (p) limited. they have a large number of godowns at different places at delhi and the disputed premises are one such godown (no.1350) the battle is over the .possession of this godown in a building purchased by the trust some time in 1967- in kashmere gate, delhi. admittedly the company is a subtenant of the godown. (2) on, 8.6.1972 the landlord, kashmere gate charitable trust, filed an application for ejectment against the tenant, shri man-other lal vacher,.....
Judgment:

Avadh Behari Rohtagi, J.

(1) In this appeal two powerful litigants are locked in battle. One is a trust and the other a company. The appellant landlord is Kashmere Gate Charitable Trust. Shri K.S. Bhatnagar is one of the trustees of the trust and its secretary. The constesting respondent on the other other side is M/s. M.G Shahni & Co. (P) Limited. They have a large number of godowns at different places at Delhi and the disputed premises are one such godown (No.1350) The battle is over the .possession of this godown in a building purchased by the trust some time in 1967- in Kashmere Gate, Delhi. Admittedly the company is a subtenant of the godown.

(2) On, 8.6.1972 the landlord, Kashmere Gate Charitable Trust, filed an application for ejectment against the tenant, Shri Man-other Lal Vacher, an advocate of Delhi, A number of grounds of ejectment were taken They were all abandoned except one under s 22 of the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958 (the Act). Ejectment of the tenant was sought on the ground that the trust is a 'public institution' and the premise are required for the 'furtherance of its activities''. On 6.6.73, rent controller ordered the ejectment of the tenant. He found that the trust is a charitable body and therefare a public institution. The trust alleged that it wanted to open an Ayurvedic dispensary at the site after reconstruction of the premises. This was accepted by the controller as an act in the furtherance of its activities. The trust was held entitled to evict the tetant. Consequently he made an order of eviction.

(3) Before the controller the tenant stated that the premises were sublet by him in year 1948 to M/s M.G. Shahani & Co. Private Limited. Accepting this statement the controller found that the tenant had lawfully sublet the premises to the company and thereforee eviction of the tenant on the ground of subletting cannot be ordered. But under s. 22 he ordered the eviction of the tenant, as I have said.

(4) The trust immediately took possession of godown in execution of the eviction order passed by the controller on 6.6.73 against the tenant. The company was entirely kept In dark about the eviction proceedings, the eviction order and the consequent proceeding in execution. The company was not made a party to the eviction suit. They knew nothing about the case. Nor did they know that they had been dispossessed from the premises How could they dream of dispossession? Mr. Vacher was Realizing rent from them even in 1974, even after the eviction order had been made in June 1973 They have produced Mr. Vacher's letter dt. 24.11.74 demanding rent from 1.9 74 to 31.12.74 and a receipt showing payment of Rs.200.00to him. (Mark A and B in the tribunal's record).

(5) On 27.1.75 the company learnt about their dispossession when its officers went to the premises to store their goods in the go- down. They found them locked. They learnt that in execution of the eviction order against the tenant, Shri Vacher, they had been dispossessed without impleading them as a party and without hearing them. Immediately they filed an appeal before the rent control tribunal from the order of eviction. The tribunal by order dt. 4.5.78 allowed the appeal set aside the eviction order and dismissed the eviction case. Shri P.K. Bahri, one man tribunal, ordered that possession of the go-down be restored to the company 'forthwith''. From his decision the present appeal was brought on 10.7.78.

(6) The company was not a party to the original proceedings launched by the landlord against the tenant. thereforee as a sub-tenant the company made an application to the tribunal for permission to file an appeal from the order of eviction. They also made an application under s 5 of the Limitation Act for condonatian of delay in filing the appeal. The tribunal allowed both the applications. The tribunal then heard the appeal, set aside the order of the controller and dismissed the eviction case.

(7) TRIBUNAL'S findings : Before I proceed further I will summarise the findings of the tribunal at this stage : 1. The comany was vitally interested in the eviction proceedings and ought to have been joined as party. 2. That the company was highly prejudiced by by the eviction order as it was unlawfully deprived of possession without an opportunity of a hearing at the trial. 3. That the eviction petition filed in the name of the trust was not maintainable as the trust is not a legal person. 4. The it is not proved that the trust is a 'public institution'. 5. That there was no evidence on the record showing the trust had started any public activity or that the premises were required for the 'furtherance of its activities''. 6. That the order of eviction was not validly passed againsed the tenant and thereforee the company could not be lawfully dispossessed from the demised premises in execution of an unlawful eviction order.

(8) In substance the rent tribunal held that the eviction order and the dispossession of the company as a result thereof is in contravention of the principles of natural justice. Section 37(1) of the Act clearly says : 'No order which prejudicially affects any person shall be made by the controller under this Act without giving him a reasonable opportunity of showing cause against the order proposed to be made and until his objections, if any, and any evidence he may produce in support of the same, have been considered by the controller.' This is the cornerstone of the procedure to be followed by the controller. On this principal foundation Mr. Bahri, the tribunal, grounded his decision. He found that the company had been unlawfully dispossessd. They were never given an opportunity of showing cause against the proposed eviction order They were never asked to file objections. They were denied the opportunity to produce evidence in support of their case.

(9) Whether the tribunal's order is right or wrong remains to be decided. On the merits of the appeal I say nothing at this stage. Whether the trust can sue in its own name, whether it is a 'public institution', whether possession of the premises can be claimed for the 'furtherance of its activities' are questions which properly arise in the appeal.

(10) But one thing is clear. Before hearing the appeal vacant possession ought to be delivered to the company and there ought to be no stay of delivery of possession. In a case in such as this we do injustice if the court keeps a party out of possession so long as the appeal of the landlord is not decided. This gives the landlord an upper hand in the ' proceedings, an undue advantage and an unmerited ascendency. The Company will , remain out of possession Proceeding will go on interminably. Though entitled to restoration of possession under the order of the tribunal the court ought not to say to the company 'You stand and wait till we hear and decide the appeal of the trust'. For such an order there is no justification.

(11) This appears to be the view of the tribunal. He concluded that the conduct of judicial proceeding was cunningly planned for the evil purpose of thwarting justice to the sub-tenant by denying him a chance of defense and Explanationn. He took the view that it was the height of injustice to disposseses the sub-tenant in execution of an eviction order obtained by the landlord against the tenant without hearing the sub-tenant. This is why an angry tribunal ordered restoration of possesssion 'forthwith.' The opposition offered by the tenant to the suit of the trust was characterised by him as 'a lame defense'. He found that there was no valid proceeding by a public institution for the furtherance of its activities as is required by s. 22 of the Act. Even the institution of the proceedings by Shri K. S. Bhatnagar, 'the so called secretary of the trust', was held to be invalid. On the merits of the case he was surprised that the additional controller 'had fallen in a trap' in passing the eviction order on a petition which on the very face of it was unmaintainable. He thought that this was 'the fittest case' in which he ought to allow the company leave to appeal from the order parsed in trust's favor.

(12) Proceedings in appeal: On 12.7.78 in the appeal, on an application of the trust, I made an exparte order of stay of dispossession of the trust (CM 1388 of 1978,). On 27.7.78 when the question' of confirmation of stay came I heard both parties. I made this Order in C.M. 1388/78

'MR.R. Dayal gives an undertaking that the appellant trust will not alienate, transfer or let the premises in any manner till the decision of the appeal. He also undertakes that the trust will not make any additions or alterations to the premises as they exist today except with the permission of the court. On this undertaking counsel for the respondent does not oppose stay. The order staying dispossession till the decision of the appeal is confirmed.'

(13) On March 22, 1979, the company made an application (CM 664 of 1979) for a very early hearing of the case on the ground that They were entitled to the possession of the godown by way of restitution and this they were being denied by reason of the stay order passed in the case. It was stated that the company needed the godown urgently for storing goods of Colgate Palmolive (I) P. Ltd. of which they were a warehousing agent. On April 11, 1979, Chawla J. thought that in the circumstances mentioned in the application the hearing of the appeal ought to be expedited. He thereforee made an order for its hearing in July, 1979.

(14) In 1979 the appeal could not be heard. On January 7, 1980, the appeal was opened before me. Counsel for the trust, Mr. Rameshwar Dayal, at the outset of his arguments contended that the proper order for the tribunal to make was to remand the case for giving an opportunity to the company to produce the necessary evidence and not to dismiss the eviction application of the trust outright. This is also their ground in the memorandum of appeal dated July 10, 1978 (see ground No. 5). On this argument my thoughts turned in another direction. I thought that if the case is to go back to the controller the proper thing to do will be to put the company back into possession. They were out of possession since June 1973. Nearly seven years have passed and the end of the case is not in sight. I, thereforee, suggested to counsel that the trust should hand over possession to the company before their appeal is decided or heard. Counsel sought time to consider my proposal. I granted an adjournment on January 7, 1980. On January 22, 1980 when the appeal was taken up, counsel for the company very fairly stated that he was prepared to give an undertaking that he would hand over vacant and peaceful possession of the godown to the appellant trust if the trust succeeded in the appeal. To this suggestion the trust did not agree. The trust was not willing to hand over possession. Mr. Rameshwar Dayal, counsel for the trust, said that he wanted to make statement. I recorded his statement. It is as under : 'With reference to the court's order dated July 27, 1978 I have observed the undertaking I gave. I did not give any undertaking that in the event of the appeal being decided one way or the other the appellant shall deliver possession of the property to the respondent. In case the court desires it may pass appropriate order in respect of the stay which was granted to the appellant. The stay may be vacated and the law will take its due course. Court question: Mr. Rameshwar Dayal, have you got possession of the property Answer : I have possession of the property through Sardar Raghbir Singh who is storing material in pursuance of an agreement with him of the reconstruction of the building. The eviction petition was field for purposes of reconstructing the whole building. He holds possession on my behalf. I mentioned this fact in my application for stay vide para 4. Question : Can you produce Mr. Raghbir Singh Answer :. I cannot produce him. I will, however, give his address.'

(15) The trust then gave the address of Mr. Raghbir Singh. I issued notice to him requiring him to appear in person in court. He refused to take notice on the ground that he had no connection with the case.

(16) On February 8, 1980 I gave notice to Shri K.S. Bhatnagar, secretary of the trust, to show cause why he should not be committed for contempt for breach of the undertaking given on his behalf by his counsel. The trust has filed the reply to the show cause notice.

(17) In these proceedings the question is : Has the secretary of the trust committed contempt of court for the breach of the under taking dated July 27, 1978 which I have set above I at once stopped the hearing of the appeal on merits because I thought that this question ought to be decided first,

(18) The stand of the trust is this. They say 'that soon after taking possession of the premises in execution of the decree passed by Shri R.P. Gupta, Additional Rent Controller,, the premises in dispute had been placed in the hands of S. Raghbir Singh for reconstruction. Shri Raghbir Singh had started storing building material and started reconstruction of the premises and the premises were in the hands of Shri Raghbir Singh on 10th July, 1978, on which date the application for stay of the order dated 1.5.1978 of the rent control tribunal was made in this Hon'ble Court. This fact was specifically mentioned in the application dated 107.1978 filed for slay of order dated 1.5.1978, of the rent control tribunal, (see para 2(i) of the reply dated 22nd February, 1980). In another paragraph the trust says:

'THATthe appellant-trust has not changed the position in respect of the premises after 27.7.1978. The trust has not alienated, transferred or let the premises 10 any one, in any manner whatsoever, except that the premises are in the hands of S Raghbir Singh for reconstruction purpose's as mentioned in the application dated 10.7.1978. No further construction, additions or alteration in the premises has been made and the premises have been kept in the state in which they were on 22.7.1978...,.....'

(See para 2 (in) ) It is thereforee necessary to turn to the application for slay dated July 10, 1978. In paragraph 4 of the application the trust says: 'Soon after the said order, the trust took the godown into possession and is still in possession and has been placed in the hands of Sardar Raghbir Singh for reconstruction.'

(19) The real question is : Is there a breach of the undertaking Is not refusal of the trust to deliver possession contempt of court To answer these questions it is necessary to see what actually happened at the stage of the tribunal. On February 3, 1975, at the time of the admission of the appeal of the company, the tribunal, on an application dated January 28, 1975 moved by the company under 0.39 Civil Procedure Code . for the preservation of the property in question, made an exparte order that status quo be maintained. On February 25, 1975, the tribunal made the stay absolute. Status quo during the pendency of the appeal was to be maintained. This order was made in the presence of the trust. They did not file any reply in opposition to that application under 0.39, CPC. They did not disclose to court that possession of the premises had been transferred to Shri Raghbir Singh. There fore, the tribunal directed the trust to maintain status quo during the pendency of the appeal.

(20) Now the trust says that 'soon after taking possession' of the premises in execution of the eviction order dated 6th June 1973 passed by the additional controller possession had been delivered to Sardar Raghbir Singh. This is the sole defense and it is, in my opinion utterly false. In the entire proceedings before the tribunal there is not even an inkling of this position. For the first lime this was stated in the application for stay .dated July 10,1978. Even before me on July 27, 1978, it was not stated in arguments that possession was with Sardar Raghbir Singh. On the other hand, counsel gave a solemn undertaking that the trust will not alienate, transfer or let the premises in any manner till the decision of the appeal. On this undertaking counsel for the company did not oppose stay and I stayed dispossession. Now that the question of delivery of possession to the company has arisen the trust has adopted a a defiant attitude. They are prepared to clash with the authority of the court.

(21) The story of Sardar Raghbir Singh being in possession is subterfuge concocted in order to keep the company out of possession. So that Raghbir Singh can resist the powers of the court. The game is transparently clear. The game is to retain possession somehow. The trust wants to over each the court. What is to be done then Proceedings in contempt is the answer. Nothing else will vindicate the authority of the law. Nothing else will empower the judge to say to a parly ; 'Do not fear, the arm of the law is strong enough to protect you.'

(22) If such is the game may we not scotch it righ now. Should we allow litigation to maximise or nip the evil design in the bud by asserting the authority of law There are two reasons why this question should be dealt with at this stage and ought'not to be left for decision after the hearing of the appeal. Firstly. Why should we hear the appeal of a party who has made all preparations for resistance to the court's process If the company sues out execution, as is suggested, they are bound to be resisted by Raghbir Singh. This is on the cards, to use a colloquial phrase. He is the alter ego of the trust. Secondly, if the appeal is heard and decided against the trust they may prefer a further appeal and keep the opponent out of possession as long as the litigation lasts. And if the appeal is decided in favor of the trust the company have given the undertaking to hand over vacant possession to the trust which fully safeguards their rights. On any view of the matter possession must be restored to the company. One would expect the trust to be as fair as is the company. In truth it is a struggle for power possession is power and the court must. step in to enforce the undertaking.

(23) Breach of the undertaking : The trust is not ready and willing to deliver possession. They say to the court 'You may vacate stay. Law will take its own course.' I find there is an express undertaking that the trust will not transfer or alienate 'in any manner'' till the decision of the appeal. It is an under taking of a positive character. Whenever such an undertaking is given the court is entitled to assume that the possession is with the party and he will deliver it if stay is vacated. How else do you undertake not to alienate or transfer the property But if possession has already been transferred to a third person the words 'alienate' or 'transfer' are misleading. This is how I read the under taking.

(24) For ages courts have accepted under takings given by counsel and clients because they have found in them safety and security. 'Undertaking' is frequently used in the special sense of a promise given in the course of legal proceedings by a party or his counsel, generally as a condition to obtaining some concession from the court or the opposite party It means in this case that the trust promised to deliver possession if it subsquently turned out that they were not entitled to retain possession. But now the trust refuses to acquiesce in the ruling of the court. They fail to perform the undertaking. They fail to obey. They commit contempt. 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 (Borrie and Lowe Law of Contempt p. 325). The only sanctions for breach are imprisonment for contempt, sequestration. or a fine (Re Hundson 1966) Ch. 207.

(25) 'CIVIL contempt' is defined in Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, as a 'willful breach of an undertaking given to a court'. In Halsbury's Laws of England Vol. 9 (4th ed.) at p. 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, has the same force as an injunction made by the court and a breach of the undertaking is. misconduct amounting to contempt,'

(26) On the faith of the undertaking the court adopted a particular course of action. It stayed dispossession of the trust. Otherwise the company would have taken proceedings in restitution. The trust was allowed to remain in possession. This was a concession. Now the answer of the trust's counsel that 'I did not give any undertaking that in the event of the appeal being decided one way or the other the appellant shall deliver possession to the respondent' is a breach of faith, to say the least. H is a breach of trust the court reposed in the undertaking.

(27) It is to be regretted that the trust has not taken the court into confidence. It has not disclosed material facts. For example, when was the possession given to Sardar Raghbir Singh If so, on what terms What are the terms of the alleged agreement between him and the trust on which the property 'has been placed in the hands of Sardar Raghbir Singh for reconstruction' Is he an independent contractor or a servant I am prepared to go to the length of saying that the court has been deceieved in this case. Where there is a duty of disclosure suppression of material facts is deceit. And deceiving court is con- tempt. The statement that S. Raghbir Singh is in possession is misleading as a whole because of the failure to refer to other facts affecting the weight of those stated. The truth is that it is a naked attempt to retain possession by those who act in the name of charity and the love of God. An attempt to retain possession 'by violence no but by deceit and lies'. (Milton Paradise Lost V. 243).

(28) It appears to me that the object of the trust is somehow to wriggle out of the undertaking. They say in one breath that the possession is with the trust. They have not parted with it.. In the same breath it is said that they do not want to deliver possession. The court may do what it likes. It may vacate the stay. Let law take its own course. No one consistent position has been taken. In its reply the trust says that there is no breach of the undertaking and if there is any, it is absolutely 'unintentional' for which K. S. Bhatnagar expresses deep remorse'' and 'tenders absolute unqualified apology.' But possession he is not willing to surrender, come what may. He wants the court to hold that the trust has not alienated or transferred the possession and at the same time he refuses to handover possession. Sardar Raghbir Singh's name has been used as a screen to frustrate restitution. One line scribbled in hand in haste in the application dated 10th July 1979 that the godown 'has been placed in the hands of Sardar Raghbir Singh for reconstruction' is a devious attempt to frustrate the orders' of the court, even if the company executes the tribunal's order.

(29) I have come to the conclusion that stay in favor of the trust ought to be vacated and I do so. The reason is that restitution is an equitable remedy. There are no equities in favor of the trust. Stay is discretionary. The trust claims to be a charitable body. But charity begins at home. The court will not assist a party who has unjustly resumed possession, however, beneficial may be the objects of the trust and however long the list of its deserving charities. It must do justice to the parties before it. If scales of justice tilt in favor of one it will try to restore the balance by redressing the wrong done to the other. The truth is that the fight is over possession. Possession is precious. Precious to all to the trust as well as to the company. It is nine-tenths of law. But who in justice ought to retain possession at this stage This is the question. I am of opinion that it ought to be given to the ousted company who were never heard in the eviction case. Possession was unjustly taken from them. , .

(30) Counsel for the trust argued that it is against the time-honoured practice of the court not to deliver possession while the appeal of a party is pending. This is a complete inversion of an established rule. The general practice is that a tenant who is ordered to be evicted after a full hearing can be allowed to retain possession, during pendency of appeal, if his conduct is just. No such practice can be followed where a party has been thrown out without a hearing in proceedings which are at once collusive and secret. To adopt a principle moulded in large measure for a somewhat different purpose to the facts of the present case will not promote justice.

(31) A servant does not occupy the premises. His master occupies through him. This is the position of Sardar Raghbir Singh, assuming that he has possession. thereforee, the trust has possession. This is admitted by counsel for the trust in his statement. He said : 'I have possession through S. Raghbir Singh. He holds possession on my behalf.' When the court orders delivery of possession to the company the trust cannot say 'No'. Its refusal to deliver possession is an abuse of the process of the court. It is an attempt to obstruct justice. It is a resistance to the court's authority. I strongly agree with counsel for the company that it is a clear case of contempt. I also agree that the appeal should not be heard until the contemner purges of contempt. Where a party to a proceeding Is guilty of contempt of court, he cannot, as a general rule, take further steps in the same proceedings while he is in contempt. (Haldane v. Eckford 1869) Lr 7 Eq. 425 (Halsbury vol. 9 para 106 (4th ed.). The contemner is said to clear or purge his contempt when he expresses his contrition and submits himself to the court. A person sent to prison for contempt can only secure his release by carrying out the order of the court (Corcoran v. Corcoran (1950) 1 All Er 495.

(32) Disobedience to an order of the Court : It is the duty of the court to see that trials of cases are fairly conducted, that lawful remedies are readily available, that no party is allowed to have an upper hand and the streams of justice are kept pure and unsullied. It is its duty to see that no person is deprived of property or possession without the due process of law.

(33) There is not one stream'of justice. There are many streams. Whoever obstructs their courses or muddies the waters of any of these streams is punishable under the single rubric 'Contempt of Court'. Contempt of court may thus take many forms It may take the form of abuse of process of the court. It may be an attempt to obstruct or defeat the administration of justice.

(34) Civil Contempt means 'willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court'. (s. 2(b) of Contempt of Courts Act). The term is chiefly used with reference to the failure or refusal of a party to obey a lawful order, injunction or decree of the court. It consists in the failure to do something which the party is ordered by the court to do for the benefit of another party to the proceeding before the court. It is committed by a person who does any act in willful contravention of its authority or dignity, or tending to impede or frustrate the administration of justice or by one who, being under the court's authority as a party to the proceeding therein, willfully disobeys its lawful orders or fails to comply with an undertaking given by him (R v. Barnardo (1889) 23 Q.B.D. 305

(35) One of the most important powers of a court of law is its power to give orders. Very often it has to make an order commanding a person to do something or restraining him in some way. If he disobeys, the court has one weapon in its armoury which it can use. It can punish him for contempt of court.

(36) Civil contempts are committed by disobeying court judgments or orders either to do or to abstain from doing particular acts or by breaking the terms of an undertaking given to the court, on the faith of which a particular course of action or inaction is sanctioned. The court's jurisdiction in respect of civil contempt is primarily remedial, the basic object being to coerce the offender in to obeying court judgment or order (Borrie and Lowe p. 370) Committal is granted merely for the purpose of enforcing judgments in civil disputes.. It has been said : 'Civil contempt of court exists, thereforee, to provide the ultimate sanction against one who refuses to comply with the order of a properly constituted court.' (Miller Contempt of Court p.2) The present case is a good example of a case where the disobedience of the party impedes the course of justice. Until the impediment is removed it will be difficult for the court to do justice.

(37) The trust argued that the court may vacate stay. I vacate stay. I ask them to handover possession. They refuse. They say : 'Let the company sue out execution'. This is willful disobedience of the court's order of restitution as well as a breach of the undertaking.

(38) What is the sanction. The form of sanction is committal to prison. Such coercion is usually intended to assit an individual complainant to enforce his remedy, but, as Lord Diplock has recently observed in a leading case, there is also 'an element of public policy in punishing civil contempt, since the administration of justice would be undermined if the order of any court of law could be disregarded with impunity.' A. G. v. Times Newspapers Ltd. (1974) Ac 273

(39) Take this very case. The trust has adopted obstructive attitude to the authority of the court. It does not care to honour its undertaking. It is prepared to flout the orders of the court. I cannot accept that trust's action is 'unintentional' as has been said by K.S. Bhatnagar in his reply. It is willful, deliberate and designed.

(40) The question to be decided as in all cases of alleged contempt of court, is whether the action complained of is calculated to interfere with the proper administration of Justice. There is more than one way of so interfering. Obstructing justice is one form It has been said : 'It is contempt to employ a subterfuge to obstruct, or attempt to obstruct, the service of legal process. Courts have said that intentional hindrance of service of process constitutes contempt, regardless of the particular means by which such hindrance is accomplished.' (American Jurisprudence Vol. 17 p. 20).

(41) The refusal to deliver possession coupled with the subterfuge of Raghbir Singh's possession is a clear attempt to obstruct the judicial process. The trust is guilty of willful disobedience to court's order to deliver possession and which thereforee constitutes contempt. Plainly the trust is trying to transfer property so as to put it beyond the reach of process.

(42) On the facts of this case I have come to the conclusion that the recalcitrant attitude of the trust is a gross affront to the dignity and authority of the court. Its refusal to deliver possession is contempt. It is opposing and despising the authority of the court. One sentence in the reply that possession is with Sardar Raghbir Singh ought not to save them from the offence they deliberately commit. They cannot ride roughshod over the rights of the company to the restoration of possession unjustly taken from them. They want to trample under foot their rights in their keenest desire to retain possession. Is the court helpless In such a situation the court is left high and dry. It must suffer indignity or do something. Such is the choice. To use the words of Lord Denning M.R : 'We have the choice before us. Either to redress a grievous wrong, or to leave it unremedied. Either to protect the victim of oppression, or to let him suffer under it. Either to uphold the authority of the law, or to watch it being flouted. Faced with this choice I have no doubt what the 'answer should be. We cannot stand idly by' (Champan v. Honia (1963) 2 Q.B. 502 .

(43) Summary and conclusion : To sum up. There ought to be restitution as a preliminary to the hearing of the appeal Possession that in good conscience belongs to the company on reversal of the judgment the trust must yield up. The undertaking given on behalf of the trust was not to transfer possession. Now admittedly possession is with Raghbir Singh. If the trust have possession they cannot refuse to deliver to the company on court's order. If they do not have, it is a breach of the undertaking. Transfer of possession to Raghbir Singh was prohibited by the orders of the tribunal and this court. Maintenance of status quo ordered by the tribunal and the undertaking of this court completely forbade the trust to alter the postion. Raghbir Singh's induction is illegal. The trust's secretarty is guilty of obstructive behavior. His willful disobedience is punishable as a contempt.

(44) 'CONTEMPT of Court', understood as' a legal term, principally signifies disrespect for what is entitled to 'legal regard'. Every contempt is in some respect an obstruction of justice, a sinning against the majesty of the law, and time-honoured punitive jurisdiction over such offences is now undisputed. It consists in a party's doing otherwise than he is enjoined to do, or not doing what is commanded or required by the process, order or decree of the court. . In this case giving possession to Raghbir Singh is something the trust was enjoined not to do. Now that the trust refuses to deliver possession they commit contempt as trust is not prepared to obey command of the Court. For these reasons, I make following orders : (l) K.S. Bhatnagar be committed for contempt and detained in civil prison for 2 months; (2) hearing of appeal be stayed till the trust and its Secretary purge of contempt & deliver possession to Company; (3) delivery of vacant possession to Company by executing order of tribunal against the trust and all those who hold possession under or thru' them by evicting them from the godown.


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