S.H. Sheth, J.
1. Kripalu Co-operative Housing Society Limited is respondent No. 1 to the petition. It is hereinafter referred to as 'the society' for the sake of brevity. The petitioner was admitted to the membership of the society in July 1973. The society then had been constructing residential flats. In 1977, the construction had been in progress. During that very year, the society passed a resolution expelling the petitioner from its membership. The petitioner challenged that resolution before the Board of Nominees constituted under the Gujarat Co-operative Societies Act. On 26th May 1978, the Board of Nominees issued an ad-interim injunction-restraining respondents Nos. 2 to 10 the other members of the society from taking possession of the flats under construction and restraining the society from handing over possession of these flats to respondents Nos. 2 to 10. The Board of Nominees also stayed the implementation of the resolution which was challenged before it.
2. On 27th May 1978, a Commissioner was appointed by the Board of Nominees to report on the state of construction of the flats in question.
3. The Commissioner, after inspecting the site, reported that the society had not handed over possession of the flats in question to respondents Nos. 2 to 10 and, that respondents Nos. 2 to 10 bad not taken their possession. The flats under construction were not complete and were, therefore, not habitable. Respondent No. 9 signed the Commissioner's report.
4. The petitioner alleges that respondents Nos. 2 to 10 thereafter took possession of the flats in violation of the ad-interim injunction issued by the board of Nominees, completed the construction and occupied them. Therefore, the petitioner filed in this court miscellaneous civil application No. 105 of 1979 for taking, action against the respondents under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. How ever, it appears that that petition was withdrawn because the ad-interim in junction which the Board of Nominees had issued had yet to be confirmed after hearing both the parties. On 5th May, 1979, both the parties were heard. Upon hearing both the parties, the Board of Nominees vacated the ad-interim injunction.
5. The petitioner challenged that order in Revision Application No. 24 of 1979, which he filed before the Gujarat Co-operative Tribunal. In that revision application, no ad-interim injunction was given. However, after hearing both the sides the Tribunal allowed the revision application and granted an ad-interim in Junction. The order of the tribunal shows that the ad-interim injunction which the Board of Nominees had granted and which they had vacated was made absolute by the Tribunal. The petitioner alleges in this petition that during the period during which the ad-interim injunction issued by the Board of Nominees was in operation, the respondents committed a willful breach thereof with in the meaning of Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
6. The first question, which has arisen before us, is whether we have jurisdiction to take action under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 in view of the provisions of S. 20 of that Act. The ad-inte rim injunction issued by the Board of Nominees had been in force from 26-5-1978 to 5-5-1979 on that day, it was vacated. The present petition was filed on 20-11-1979. Notice was issued by this Court to respondents on 23-11-1979.
Therefore, unless the respondents had committed willful breach of the ad-inte rim injunction issued by the Board of Nominees, say, between 20-lr-1978 and 5-5-1979 when the ad-interim injunction was vacated, no action can be taken against them. The petitioner has not stated in this petition when the breach of the ad-interim injunction was committed. It is quite probable that the breach of the ad-interim injunction might have been committed say between 26-5-1978 and 20-11-1978. If it was so, then, interim injunction issued by the Board Section 20 would bar our jurisdiction to of Nominees, completed the construction take action against the respondents under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. If willful breach of the ad-interim injunction was committed by the respondents say between 20-11-1978 and 5-5-1979 S. 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 would not bar our jurisdiction. In view of this state of affairs it was absolutely necessary for the petitioner to state in his petition when the respondents committed willful breach of the ad-interim injunction issued by the Board of Nominees. He has not done so. It is the duty of the person who institutes an action to satisfy the court that it is within time. When we say so, we are assuming that the information supplied by the petitioner by filing the present petition amounted to the institution of an action against the respondents. When the petitioner was faced with this situation an attempt was made to argue that the petitioner had instituted earlier miscellaneous Civil Application No. 105 of 1979 in this Court and that the present proceedings were a continuation thereof. There cannot be a more untenable argument than one, which Mr. Ravel has raised on behalf of the petitioner. The earlier petition stood terminated finally when it was withdrawn by the petitioner. Thereafter, the Board of Nominee heard both the parties in the matter of ad-interim injunction issued by it earlier and made an order vacating it. Intervention of these two events totally disconnect the earlier proceedings under the Contempt of Courts Act from the present proceedings.
7. It has also been argued by Mr. Raval in that behalf that once contempt is committed, unless it is purged, it continues to be committed every day and every moment and that, therefore, an action can be taken against the contemner at any time. We cannot accede to this contention because S. 20 in terms places an absolute fetter on the power of the court to initiate proceedings for contempt after the expiry of a period of one year from the day on which contempt is alleged to have been committed. If we accede to the argument which Mr. Raval has raised, S. 20 would be rendered redundant because every act of contempt will ordinarily mean recurring contempt from day to day and from moment to moment until it is purged by an order of the court. We are therefore, unable to accede to the argument which Mr. Raval has raised, because by doing so, we cannot deprive the legislative enactment of its force and substance.
8. The petitioner has thereupon filed a civil application in these contempt proceedings in which he prays for condo nation of delay. The interesting question, therefore, which has been argued, is whether in contempt proceedings, the court has jurisdiction to condone delay. In order to appreciate the rival contentions which have been raised by Mr. Raval on behalf of the petitioner and by Mr. Shah on behalf of the respondents it is necessary to reproduce S. 20:-
'No court shall initiate any proceedings for contempt, either on its own motion or otherwise, after the expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the-contempt is alleged to have been committed.'
He has thereafter invited our attention to S. 29 of the Limitation Act, 1963. Subsection (2) there of reads as under:-
'Where any special or local law prescribes for any suit, appeal or application, a period of limitation different from the period prescribed by the schedule, the provisions of S. 3 shall apply as if such period were the period prescribed by the schedule, and for the purpose of determining any period of limitation prescribed for any suit, appeal or application by any special or local law, the provisions contained in Ss. 4 to 24 (inclusive) shall apply only in so far as, and to the extent to which, they are not expressly excluded by such special or local law.))
Mr. Ravel has argued that the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 is a special law which prescribes the period of limitation for initiating proceedings under that Act. Therefore, according to him, the terms of sub-section (2) of S. 29 are satisfied. He has further argued that if the terms of sub-see. (2) of S. 29 are satisfied, then, S. 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 is applicable to the present proceedings and this court has jurisdiction to condone delay. The argument which Mr. Raval has raised has over-simplified the problem which we are required to answer. It cannot be gainsaid -that in relation to Limitation Act, 1963, the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 is a special law. The schedule to the Limitation Act does not prescribe any limitation f3r initiating proceedings under the Contempt o Courts Act, 1971. S. 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 fills up the lacuna and prescribes a period of limitation. He has further argued that no provision of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 expressly excludes the application of Sections 4 to 24 (inclusive) of the Limitation Act, 1963. This argument which Mr. Raval has raised cannot be controverter and yet, we are unable to accede to the argument which he has raised. It is not mere express exclusion of Ss. 4 to 24 (inclusive) of the Limitation Act, 1963, which repels the applicability of S. 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 to proceedings initiated under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. Thus, apart from the express exclusion of Ss. 4 to 24 (inclusive), which a special or local law may provide, it is also necessary to find out whether sub-section (2) of S. 29 is otherwise inherently applicable to a special or local law, in the instant case, Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. If it is inherently not applicable, then, merely by virtue of the fact that a special law or local law does not exclude application of Ss. 4 to 24 (inclusive) of Limitation Act, 1963, it cannot be applied.
9. We shall be presently referring to a few decisions which have a substantial bearing on the issues which have arisen before us. However, it cannot be gainsaid that the contempt proceedings are between the contemner and the court. If someone brings to the notice of court contemptuous action committed by any other person, he merely supplies information to the court and leaves to the court the task of taking such action as it thinks fit in order to vindicate its own authority. He may supply the information in any manner he thinks fit. However, supply of that information does not amount to institution of a petition or an application within the meaning of sub-section (2) of S. 29.
10. It is necessary in this context to refer to S. 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971: -
'In case of a criminal contempt, other than a contempt referred to in Section 14, the Supreme Court or the High Court may take action on its motion or on a motion made by
(a) the Advocate General,-or
(b) any other person, with the consent in writing of the Advocate General.
Sub-section (2) provides: - 'In the case of any criminal contempt of a Subordinate Court, the High Court may take action on a reference made to it by the subordinate court or on a motion made by the Advocate General.'
These factors are required to be satisfied in a case where an act of a criminal contempt has been committed. So far as civil contempt is concerned, there does not appear to be a corresponding provision in the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. Section 6 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 provides: -
'A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court in respect of any statement made by him in good faith concerning the presiding officer of any subordinate court to-
(a) any other subordinate court, or
(b) the High Court, to which it is subordinate.'
S. 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act. 197r provides: -
'Every High Court shall have and exercise the same jurisdiction, powers and authority in accordance with the same procedure and practice, in respect of contempts of courts subordinate to it as it has and exercises in respect of contempt's of itself.'
It appears to us that whereas in the case of a criminal contempt, the Advocate General or any other person with the consent in writing of the Advocate General has been given a statutory right to make a motion to the court for taking action against the contemner, no such statutory right has been conferred upon any one in respect of the civil contempt. However, in the case of a civil contempt, ordinarily a person who is aggrieved by such act of contempt brings it to the notice of the court. Such a person, in our opinion, is nothing more than a relator. He cannot be elevated to the status of a petitioner or an applicant who has a right to institute an action and seek decision of the court- in his favour. Therefore, the word 'Application' used in subsection (2) of S. 29 does not have any reference to the information which a person supplies to the court in regard to an act of civil contempt. He may call it an application or petition. He may call himself an applicant or a petitioner. But in substance and in reality, he is neither an applicant nor a petitioner nor is it an application nor petition properly so-called. The only status which he enjoys in such a case is that of an informant of relator and the status which the application or petition made by him enjoys is that of an information. Secondly, as we shall presently show, what S. 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 provides is not the period of limitation, as it is ordinarily understood. But it is a condition precedent to the exercise of Court's Power under that Act. R is wrong to say that it is a period of limitation in the context of which S. 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 can be attracted or can be resorted to.
11. Now, let us turn to S. 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. It does not refer to the institution of any proceedings for contempt. The very fact that it does not refer- to the institution of any proceedings goes to suggest that no application or petition can be instituted in the true sense of the term for the purpose of taking action under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. What See. 20 contemplates is initiation of proceedings for contempt. Such initiation may be on its own motion by the court or may be otherwise, that is to say on the information supplied by someone, in case of civil contempt; in the case of criminal contempt on the motion of the Advocate General or on the motion of someone else with the consent of the Advocate General in writing. Court can initiate proceedings. Initiation of proceedings, for civil contempt as well as for criminal contempt can be done by a court on its own motion in addition to what we have stated earlier. When the court takes action or takes the first step in that direction, it does not institute proceedings. Proceedings are instituted by a litigant and not by the court. A Court merely initiates proceedings. We, therefore, find that S. 20 is such that it does not contemplate institution of a petition or an application by a private individual for taking action under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. It merely contemplates initiation of proceedings by a court on its own motion or otherwise. The fetter which S. 20 places on the jurisdiction of the court is that the court shall not initiate any proceedings for contempt either on its own motion or otherwise after the expiration of a period of one year from the date on which contempt is alleged to have been committed. Since there is no application or petition before the court in such proceedings, the question of condoning delay does not arise. Delay can be condoned in a case where a person who has a right to institute action has approached the court after the expiry of the period of limitation. S. 20 does not contemplate such situation. When the Court initiates contempt proceedings on its own motion, the question of condoning delay does not arise. To illustrate, if the court initiates proceedings after the expiry of the one-year from the date on which the alleged contempt was committed, who has to pray for condoning delay? Who has to bring on record the circumstances under which delay was caused in initiating the proceedings or in other words, does the court condone delay caused by it in initiating proceedings against the alleged contemner under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971? To say that the, court can condone its own delay is something which is beyond our comprehension so far as Section 20 is concerned. If the court has to condone its own delay, after trotting out reasons, the court shall be the prosecutor and the Judge in its own cause. That is not what S. 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act contemplates.
12. Mr. Raval has contended that delay can be condoned both in suo motu proceedings as well as in proceedings initiated on an application made by a person. This argument, in our opinion, is absurd because in proceedings initiated suo motu, there is none to give reasons for condoning delay. There is none to show sufficient cause for condoning delay. The court cannot give reasons for condoning its own delay. In view of the reasons which have been stated hereinbefore, we are of the opinion that subsection (2) of S. 29 of the Limitation Act, 1963 is not applicable to the instant case. Therefore, S. 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 cannot be pressed into service in the present proceedings,
13. It has next been argued by Mr. Raval that the respondents have not raised the plea of limitation and since S. 29, is not applicable to the instant case, as held above, S. 3 of the Limitation Act, 1963 is not available to us. What be has tried to show is that since S. 3 of the Limitation Act, 1963 is not available to us we cannot suo motu raise the plea of bar of limitation. Therefore, according to Mr. Raval, it ought to have been pleaded. We are unable to accede to this argument for the following reasons: -
14. Even if S. 3 is not available to us, the bar of limitation can always be taken into account by the court irrespective of whether it is pleaded by the respondent or not. In the instant case, what S. 20 prescribes is a condition precedent to the exercise of court's jurisdiction. Since it is a condition precedent to the exercise of our jurisdiction, irrespective of whether S. 3 is available to us or not, it is our duty to see whether the condition precedent to the exercise of our jurisdiction is satisfied. The Court cannot overlook it nor can it defeat the statute. In a case of this type, the court cannot apron string itself so a party's pleadings and allow the statute to be defeated.
15. A number of decisions have been cited before us to/show whether delay can be condoned after the case has been admitted and the defence of bar of limitation has become available to the respondents. Those decisions were cited before us on the basis that S. 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 was applicable to the instant case. The petitioner filed, in the midst of the final hearing of this contempt proceeding, an application for condoning delay. It is not necessary for us to examine this question because since S. 9 of the Limitation Act is not available to the contempt proceedings, the question whether delay should be condoned before an action has been admitted to hearing or after it has been admitted to hearing, does not arise.
16. The view, which we take, leads us to the conclusion that the Contempt of Courts Act 1971 is a complete Code. As held by the Supreme Court in Hukumdev Narain Yadav v. Lalit Narain Mlshra : 3SCR31 -'What the court has to see is whether the scheme of the special law and the nature of the remedy provided there, in are such that the Legislature intended it to be a complete Code. If on an examination of the relevant provisions it is clear that the provisions of the Limitation Act are necessarily excluded, then the benefits conferred therein cannot be called in aid to supplement the provisions of the special Act.'
17. In that case, the Supreme Court has held that the Representation of the People Act, 1951 is a complete- code and excludes provisions of Ss. 4 to 24 of the Limitation Act, 1963. Bearing in mind this decision of the Supreme Court, we will examine the scheme of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 and shall find out whether it is a complete code and whether it excludes the application of the relevant provisions of the Limitation Act.
18. It is necessary to note what difference the Parliament has made by repealing the earlier Contempt of Courts Act and enacting the present one. Whereas the contempt of court remained a live issue under the repealed Act until the contempt was purged, under the present Act, it remains a live issue only for a year from the date of its alleged commission and then becomes dead. Section 20 clearly brings out the Parliament's intention that the court ought not to react to stale cases of contempt. The principle which has been incorporated in See. 20 is that time is the healer of all wounds. S. 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 asks the High Court not to be oversensitive and pounce upon the napping contemner after what he did has been lost merely. This is, therefore, the basic change which the Parliament has introduced in the present statute.
19. The conclusion which we record therefore, is that no contempt proceedings can be initiated by a court after thel expiry of a period of one year from the date of the alleged commission of contempt. Action under Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 can be taken if the court has applied its mind and initiated proceedings by passing some order within a period of one year from the date of the alleged act of contempt. If an application for taking action under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 is filed within a period of one year from the date of the alleged commission of contempt, but the court has passed no order thereon before the expiry of one year from the said date, such application automatically fails and the jurisdiction of the court is barred because the court did not apply its mind to the complaint or information within a period of one year. It is this application of mind by the Court which amounts to initiation of proceedings within the meaning of S. 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
20. The view, which we are taking, finds strong support in the decisions to which we are now referring. The first decision is that of the Supreme Court in Baradakanta Mishra v. Mr. Justice CatiKrushna Mishra, AIR .974 SC 'Mi. In that decision, the Supreme Court has observed:-
'So far as criminal contempt is concerned it is a matter entirely between the court and the alleged contemner. No one has a statutory or common law right to say that he is entitled as a matter of course to an order for committal because the alleged contemner is guilty of contempt. All that he can do is to move the court and draw its attention to the contempt alleged to- have been committed and it will then be for the court, if it so thinks fit, to take action to vindicate its authority and - commit the alleged contemner for contempt. It is for the court in the exercise of its discretion to decide whether or not to initiate a proceeding for contempt. Even if the court is prima facie satisfied that contempt has been committed, the court may yet choose to ignore it and decline to take action. There is no right in any one to compel the court to initiate a proceeding for contempt even where a prima facie case appears to have been made out. The same position obtains even after a proceeding for contempt is initiated by the court on a motion made to it for the purpose. The court may in the exercise of its discretion accept an unconditional apology from the alleged contemner and drop the proceeding for contempt or even after the Alleged contemner is found guilty, the court may, having regard to the circumstances, decline to punish him. So far as the contempt jurisdiction Js concerned, the only actors in the drama are the court and the alleged contemner. An outside party comes in only by way of drawing the attention of the court to the contempt which has been committed; he does not become a party to the proceeding for contempt which may be initiated by the court.'
The Supreme Court has in that decision, in this context approved the decision of the High Court of Bombay in Narendrabhai Sarabhai Hatheesing v. Chinubbai Manibhai Seth, AIR 1936 Bom 314.
21. After having examined the scheme of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, the Supreme Court has further observed as follows: -
'The court may initiate a proceeding for contempt suo motu or on a motion made by the Advocate General or any other person with the consent in writing of the Advocate General or on a reference made by a subordinate court. Where the court indicates a proceeding for contempt suo motu it assumes jurisdiction to punish for contempt and takes the first step 'in exercise of it. But what happens, when the Advocate General or any other person makes a motion with the consent in writing of the Advocate General or a subordinate court makes a reference? Does the Court enter upon the jurisdiction to punish for contempt and act in exercise of it when it considers such motion or reference for the' purpose of deciding whether it should initiate a proceeding for contempt.
The Supreme Court has answered the question in the negative: -
'The motion or reference is only for the purpose of drawing the attention of the Court to the contempt alleged to have been committed and it is for the court, on a consideration of such motion or reference, to decide in exercise of its discretion, whether or not to initiate a proceeding for contempt. The court may decline to take cognizance and to initiate a proceeding for contempt either because in its opinion no contempt prima facie appears to have been committed or because, even if there is prima facie contempt, it is not a fit case in which action should be taken against the alleged contemner. The exercise of contempt jurisdiction being a matter entirely between the court and the alleged contemner, the court: though moved by motion or reference may in its discretion, decline to exercise its jurisdiction for contempt. It is only when the court decides to take action and initiates a proceeding for contempt that it assumes Jurisdiction to punish for contempt the exercise of the jurisdiction to punish for contempt commences with the initiation of a proceeding for contempt, whether suo motu or on a motion or a reference. That is why the terminus a quo for the period of limitation provided in S. 20 is the date when a proceeding for contempt is initiated by the court. Where the court rejects a motion or a reference and declines to initiate a proceeding for contempt, it-refuses to assume or exercise jurisdiction to punish for contempt and such a decision cannot be regarded as a decision in the exercise of its jurisdiction to punish for contempt.'
22. The next decision is in Gulab Singh v. Ramji Das : AIR1975All366 . In that case, the petitioner had brought to the notice of the Court the alleged acts of contempt within a period of one month, but the court did not pass any order before the expiry of period of one year. It was, therefore, argued on behalf of the petitioner in that case that the petitioner should not be allowed to suffer for the mistake of the court. He had done what was necessary for him to do and thereafter the entire matter was between the court and the respondent in that case. The proceedings under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 were not, initiated in that case because the court thought that no action for contempt should be taken during the pendency of Writ Petition No. 11015 of 1973. It was also contended that the period during which that writ petition was pending should not be counted for computing the period of one year under S. 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act. The Allahabad High Court rejected that argument as a hollow argument and found no thoughtful contempt in it. It has in that case observed: -, 'There is no provision under the Contempt of Courts Act which in any manner stops the running of time of one year contemplated by S., 20 of the Act.'
23. It was also argued on behalf of the petitioner in that case that the provisions of the Limitation Act apply to the contempt proceedings. That argument was also found hollow by the Allahabad High Court. The view which it has expressed in that behalf is that the period of limitation has been prescribed by S. 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act and not by the Limitation Act.
24. The last decision to which it is necessary to refer is in N. Venkataramanappa v. D. K. Naikar, AIR 1978 Kant 57. It was a case in which the contemner had interfered with due course of judicial proceedings in criminal revision petition No. 665 of 1973. The Karnataka High Court in that behalf has observed as under:
'Interference with the course of any judicial proceedings constitutes criminal contempt as defined in S. 2(c)(ii) of the ALVY Proceeding further, it has observed: 'Section 20 provides that no court shall initiate any proceedings for contempt either on its own motion or other wise, after the expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed. The bar contained in S. 20 of the Act is an absolute bar. It bars initiation of any proceedings for contempt after the expiry of the period of one year from the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed. The bar is applicable not only for intimation of contempt at the instance of the complainant but also against suo motu initiation of proceedings by the High Court. The language of S. 20 makes it clear that the period of one year commences from the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed. After the expiry of the said period of one year, no court can initiate any proceedings for contempt either suo motu or otherwise.' The Allahabad High Court has rejected the argument that it is the date of the knowledge of the contempt, which is the starting point for limitation prescribed in S. 20, and not the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed. In view of the clear language used in S. 20 the Karnataka High Court has found it impossible to take the view that the date of knowledge of the complaint has any relevance for the purpose of computing the period of limitation.
25. In the light of the view, which we have taken, we are of the opinion that the petitioner has failed to show that the contempt was committed within one year of this court having first issued notice in this case (23-11-1979). Since the condition precedent to the, exercise of our jurisdiction is not satisfied, our jurisdiction to take action under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 is barred under S. 20. The petition is, therefore, dismissed. Rule is discharged.
26. Petition dismissed.