1. This appeal has been filed under Letters Patent from an order of committal of the respondent for contempt in a pending civil revision petition in this Court. The civil revision petition arises out of proceedings under the Madras Cultivating Tenants Protection Act (Act 25 of 1958) and has been preferred bv the legal representatives of the landlord on the dismissal of a petition for eviction of the tenant, on the ground of wilful default in the payment of rent. The contention in the civil revision petition appears to be that the Revenue Court erroneously went into the question of title and reiected the petition for eviction. The revision petitioners moved this Court in C. M. P. No. 5345 of 1965 for a direction to the respondent therein the appellant before us, to deposit into Court the arrears of rent to the credit of T. P. No. 2 of 1964 on the file of the Court of the Ex-officio First Class Magistrate, Tirupattur, for the prior four years at the rate of Rs. 226.37 per year and future rent at the rate of Rs. 250 per year pending the civil revision petition in this Court. In this civil miscellaneous petition on 28-1-1966, after hearing counsel on both sides, this Court passed an order in the following terms--
"The respondent will deposit the arrears of rent at Rs. 226-37 due up-to-date in the Rent Court within two months from this date and continue to deposit future rent at the same rate as and when it falls due."
The respondent, the present appellant (referred to hereafter as appellant) who failed to deposit the arrears of rent in terms of the order, applied by C. M. P. 6057 of 1966 for extension of time to pay the arrears. But this C. M. P. was dismissed on 12-8-1966. Surprisingly though other remedies may be available to the petitioners to secure the arrears of rent claimed by them, they moved this Court in C. M. P. 4302 of 1967 for committal of the appellant for contempt of Court in that he disobeyed the order of this Court dated 28-1-1966 in C. M. P. 5345 of 1965. The appellant, in his counter affidavit to this application for committal, submitted inter alia that he was unable to pay the amount directed by this Court, as he was not in possession of the lands and that further he was very old and had a paralytic attack and was bedridden. The plea that he was not in possession of the lands, had been put forward even in C. M. P. No. 5345 of 1965 and had been overruled. When this application for committal came on for hearing on 24-10-1967, before the learned single Judge, who passed the original order for deposit, the learned Judge granted time for deposit in the following terms--
"Adjourned two weeks to enable the respondent to pay as directed by this Court."
On 13-11-1967, when the matter was taken up again, the counsel on record for the appellant reported no instructions. There was no appearance by the appellant and in his stead his son appeared. In the order passed on that date, the learned Judge observed--
"On the facts stated above, it is clear that the respondent has not deposited, the amount as directed. He also admitted his liability and prayed for extension of time for depositing the amount. Till now, it does not appear that the respondent has deposited any amount as directed by this Court. The respondent is therefore, guilty of contempt of Court."
The appellant's son who appeared at the hearing on the 13th, represented to the Court that some amount had been deposited in the lower Court on 6-11-1967 and that he would arrange to make the deposit as per the orders of this Court. The attitude of the appellant as disclosed by the proceedings is one of surrender praying for time and pleading inability. On the representation made by the appellant's son on his behalf the order stated:
"The respondent's son S. A. Batcha represents that some amount had been deposited in the lower Court on 6-11-1967 and that he would arrange to make the deposit as per orders of this Court. If the amount is deposited as directed, it will not be necessary to inflict any punishment on the respondent taking into consideration that he is aged 82 years. Call the petition on 27-11-1967."
On 28-11-1967, the Court passed the following order--
"The pronouncement of punishment was adjourned so as to enable the respondent or his son to deposit the amount directed. The money has not been deposited. The respondent is clearly guilty of contempt. Considering the extreme old age of the respondent, I sentence the respondent to two weeks simple imprisonment."
At this hearing the respondent was represented by counsel. It is this committal of the appellant for contempt of Court that is now challenged before us as wholly outside the contempt jurisdiction of this Court.
2. It is submitted that there was only non-compliance with a simple order, no doubt of this Court, for payment of money claimed by the landlord as due for rents and such non-compliance does not carry with it penal sanctions as contempt of Court. From the record it does not appear that the appellant before us who had succeeded in the final Court and who was only the respondent here had even bargained to deposit these arrears of rent and continue to deposit the future rent pending the civil revision petition, as a condition of his being allowed to continue in possession of the lands undisturbed till the disposal of the civil revision petition. His answer to that petition for deposit was that he was not in possession of the lands. We do not find recorded any undertaking by him to the Court at any stage of the proceeding to deposit the moneys into Court. The petitioners in the civil revision petition moved for committal of the appellant for contempt only for disobedience of the order dated 28-1-1966 in C. M. P. No. 5345 of 1965. The learned Judge appears to be of the view that the failure to deposit the amount as directed by this Court is itself contempt of Court, for the learned Judge observes--
"Till now, it does not appear that the respondent has deposited any amount as directed by this Court. The respondent is, therefore, guilty of contempt of Court."
We fail to see how mere failure to deposit into Court moneys claimed by the opposite party and ordered to be deposited can amount to contempt of Court. Counsel for the petitioners cannot place a single decision before us: nor do we recollect a single instance where default of an order for payment of money has been held to constitute contempt of Court and the defaulting party sent to prison. While it is difficult to rigidly define contempt, in a general way contempt of Court may be said to be constituted by any conduct that tends to bring the authority and administration of law into disrespect or disregard or to interfere with or prejudice parties to the action or their witnesses during the litigation. For an act to amount to contempt punishable under the summary jurisdiction of this Court, it must fail within the principle of those cases in which the power to punish has been decided to exist, the unfailing criterion being whether or not there has been an interference or a tendency to interfere with the administration of justice. Contempt jurisdiction is reserved and exercised for what essentially brings the administration of justice into contempt, or unduly weakens it, as distinguished from a wrong that might be inflicted on a private party by infringing a decretal order of Court.
3. In Ramalingam v. Mahalinga Nadar, we formulated the principle of contempt jurisdiction thus--
"Essentially contempt of Court is a matter which concerns the administration of justice and the dignity and authority of judicial tribunals; a party can bring to the notice of Court, facts constituting what may appear to amount to contempt of Court, for such action as the Court deems it expedient to adopt. But, essentially, jurisdiction in contempt is not a right of a party, to be invoked for the redressal of his grievances; nor is it a mode by which the rights of a party, adjudicated upon by a tribunal, can be enforced against another party."
If we may use what may be considered an irrelevant expression, having regard to the high function of a Court of justice, proceedings by way of contempt of Court should not be used as a 'legal thumbscrew' by a party against his opponent for enforcement of his claim. But that is what the petitioners have attempted in this case.
4. The inapplicability of contempt process to an order like the one before us, is too well established to require any citation. We shall, however, refer to one case where the principle is neatly brought out. In Buckley v. Crawford, 1893-1 QB 105 at p. 107 in Volume I, an application was made for an order to commit the plaintiff in the action for disobedience to an order which had been made directing him to pay a sum of money to the claimant in inter-pleader proceedings. It was argued in that case that there was a bargain and an undertaking, and a breach of the undertaking to pay amounted to contempt of Court which may be punished by attachment, just as a breach of an injunction may. Wills, J., with whom Lord Coleridge C. J. concurred, holding that there was no jurisdiction in the Court in such a case to make an order for attachment for contempt, observed--
"This was a simple order to pay money, but it is sought to treat the default in obeying the order as a contempt of Court, on the ground that the order for payment was made in pursuance of an undertaking which had been given by the plaintiff. There is however, no difference between an order to pay money made in pursuance of an undertaking and any other order to pay a sum of money. It is true that the undertaking is the original ground of the liability, but attachment is never granted except for disobedience of an order to do or abstain from doing some specific thing."
5. It follows that the non-compliance by the appellant with the order of this Court directing him to deposit the arrears of rent due to the petitioners within the time prescribed and continue to deposit the future rent, does not amount to any contempt of Court. The penal sanction under the contempt procedure should not be invoked for default of compliance with such an order. It is not for us to suggest the processes that may be resorted to in such a case. The appeal is, therefore, allowed.
6. Normally we would not have ordered costs. But in this case, the appellant has been sentenced to two weeks simple imprisonment, at the instance of the respondents. All the while the appellant had been making vain attempts to find the money and make the deposit to escape the penal consequences of the summary proceedings initiated by the respondent. The appellant, in fact, has been able to make some deposit. Incidentally, pending the appeal oelore us, the petitioner had a receiver appointed for the properties without any objection by the appellant. In these circumstances, we award the appellant his costs in this appeal, which we fix at Rs. 50.
7. As the appellant has disclaimed his possession of the lands, we direct the receiver, appointed pending the L. P. Appeal to continue to function till the disposal of the civil revision petition.