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Gopal Chandra Biswas Vs. State of West Bengal and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectContempt of Court
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Case NumberC.R. No. 6365 (W) of 1972
Judge
Reported inAIR1974Cal3,77CWN642
ActsContempt of Courts Act, 1952 - Section 3
AppellantGopal Chandra Biswas
RespondentState of West Bengal and ors.
Appellant AdvocateArun Prokash Chatterjee and ;Parimal Das Gupta, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateSankardas Banerjee, ;Paritosh Kumar Mallick and ;Swapan Kumar Garai, Advs.
DispositionPetition dismissed
Cases ReferredPason v. A. H. Skone
Excerpt:
- .....passed by a court prejudicing the petitioners in pending litigation. at the same time, if the alleged contempt is an offence punishable under the indian penal code, its cognizance should not be taken by this court in exercise of its discretionary powers and the case should be left for trial before a criminal court of competent jurisdiction. it is further noted that when disputed questions of facts are involved in respect of the alleged contempt requiring examination of witnesses in a wide compass, a summary trial like the contempt proceeding may be inappropriate for adjudication that there has been a contempt or otherwise. 13. in the facts of the present case, the interim order was directed in terms on the district magistrate, nadia, sub-divisional officer ranaghat and.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Salil Kumar Datta, J.

1. On July 21, 1972 a rule was issued by this Court in Constitutional Writ Jurisdiction on the application of some workmen of the Kalyani Spinning Mills Ltd, Kalyani (hereinafter referred to as the Company) commanding the State of West Bengal and its servants as also the Company and its officers to show cause why a writ in the nature of Mandamus should not be issued directing them to act according to law and to ensure safety of the petitioners and other workers so that they could join their duties without fear, prevention and hindrance and also commanding other workmen of the company named in the petition not to interfere with the rights of the petitioners to join their duties without hindrance and obstruction and with their free movements. An interim order was passed on the same day to the following effect:

'There will be an interim order upon respondents Nos. 3, 4 and 5 to act in accordance with law and to ensure safety of the petitioners movements so that they can attend their duties, until further orders.' The respondents Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in rule are respectively the District Magistrate Nudia, Sub-Divisional Officer Ranaghal, and, Officer-in-charge, Kalyani Police Station.

2. The petitioners' case in brief is that since last general election in March 1972, a political party backed by police and antisocial elements had been preventing a section of workers of the company from joining their duties and earning their livelihood. There had been systematic cases of assault and torture on the workmen preventing them from reporting to their duties. The said party had been indulging in such activities for breaking the Kalyani Spinning Mills Employees' Union forcing its members to leave their Union and join its union newly formed. The further object was to deprive the workmen of their livelihood for compelling them to leave then service in the company while tbe police and local management were not taking any steps to prevent such illegal acts. In spite of representation and discussions at meeting heldby the District Magistrate the Police auhorities had taken no steps for ensuring the security of the workmen against the unlawful activities. The petitioners alleged that they were systematically prevented from joining their duties by the workmen respondents Nos. 10 to 27 aided by others and in all likelihood would be losing their service leading to starvation with their families. The situation had become precarious during last five months and the respondents Nos. 1 to 9 had taken no steps as enjoined under the law. In these circumstances the petition was moved in this Court whereon the rule and the interim order as stated above were issued and the said rule is pending.

3. On November 17, 1972 the petitioners moved an application for contempt for committing to prison or to suitably punish the respondents to the contempt petition--the officers of the Company, as also workers of the Company and others who are not parties to the petition--on the allegations made therein. The Court directed service of notice of the application by the petitioners along with copy of the application and the respondents Nos. 6 to 23, as also respondents Nos. 27 to 46 and 50 in the contempt application have entered appearance and filed two sets of affidavit-in-opposition while respondents Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5 have also appeared and filed separate affidavits-in-opposition. The petitioners also filed an affidavit-in-reply to the said affidavits.

4. In the application for contempt the petitioners alleged that all the respondents therein (hereinafter referred to as the respondents) had knowledge of the interim order passed by this Court as stated above. On August 7, 1972 respondents Nos. 6 to 23 aided and abetted by respondents Nos. 24 to 50 who are not parties to the rule violated the interim order by preventing the petitioners who were inside the factory, from entering the mills and joining their duty. The respondents Nos. 1 to 3 refused to intervene and on the contrary instigated the said respondents in their illegal acts and thus the police and management failed to implement the order of the Court. Again during August 8, 1972 to August 14, 1972 due to obstruction of the respondents Nos. 6 to 50 the petitioners were prevented by force at the mill gate from attending their duties by the said respondents who set up a tent at the gate of the mill and the said respondents in the said acts were also aided by others as also the respondent No. 2 and security personnel of the mills. During August 9, 1972 to September 14, 1972 the petitioners were forcibly prevented at point of pipe guns from attending their duties by said respondents with the direct connivance and help of the respondents Nos. 1 to 5. On the morning (as it appears) of September 15, 1972 the petitioners entered the mill with help of police and came to the Finishing Department and sent information to the Works Manager, Respondent No. 5 and Security Officer respondent No. 2 requesting for job assignment. The respondents Nos. I to 5 in the meantime permitted or invited 40 outsider rowdies carrying fire arms and they thereafter closed the gate of the mill, switched off the electric main plunging the mill into darkness and ruthlessly attacked and mercilessly beat the workers there including female workers in brutal and dastardly manner. AH this happened when the District Magistrate was present inside the mill. About 28 workers including 8 female workers suffered injuries and a number of them went to hospital and some were still in hospital. A diary was lodged at Kalyani Police Station. On September 18, 1972, as the workers were coming to join their duties, they were forcibly brought down from local trains at Kanchrapara Railway Station and were attacked causing serious injury to at least 12 workmen and the mill was closed on that day. Apart from these, stray incidents occurred when individual workers were attacked. It was alleged that it was manifest that the whole thing was engineered by the officers of the company along with respondent No. 4 who is a Member of the State Legislative Assembly and a director of the Company. The petitioners accordingly submitted that the contemner respondents by their wilful and deliberate act are guilty of contempt of Court and should be suitably dealt with.

5. By his affidavit-in-opposition the respondent No. 1 the Managing Director of the Company, who joined on August 5, 1972 denied all the allegations made against him and in regard to affairs at the mill. The alleged incidents on August 7, 1972 or between August 8 to August 14, 1972 or between August 9 to September 14, 1972 were denied and the allegations about instigation by the answering respondent was also most emphatically denied. It was denied that any tent was put up or the District Magistrate was present on September 15, 1972 or that the said respondent permitted any rowdies inside the mill. It was stated that no incidents happened on that date in the mill as alleged when the mill functioned normally. On September 18, 1972 'Kalyani band' was observed and no worker attended the mill. The respondents Nos. 3 and 5 also filed an affidavit in similar lines as the one filed by the respondent No. 1 denying all allegations against them as also about the alleged incidents and of instigation and participation by the officers of the company therein. The respondent No. 4 filed separate affidavit denying the allegations against his party or its members and also against him. It was also denied that the incidents as alleged ever took place or that his party was destroying the union of the petitioners or driving them out from their employment. The respondents Nos. 6 to 23 by their affidavit denied all allegations made against them and also denied that they violated any order passed by thisCourt. The respondents Nos. 27 to 46 and 50 submitted that they were not parties to rule and were not aware of any order passed by this Court in the said rule. It was denied that any obstruction was put by them at any time or at the time of the petitioners* joining their duty or they violated any order of Court.

6. The petitioners filed an affidavit-in-reply reiterating their allegations made in the petition and denying all allegations in the affidavits-in-opposition contrary thereto.

7. Mr. Arun Prakash Chatterjee appearing with Mr. Parimal Kumar Das Gupta learned Advocates for the petitioners contended that the interim order issued by this Court was to ensure the safety of the petitioners' movements so that they could attend their duties in the mill at Kalyani. Any person who with knowledge of the said order by any overt act endangered the safety of the petitioners in connection with their duties in the mills at 'Kalyani must be deemed to have interfered with and violated the order of the Court undermining the dignity and authority of the Court of law and the administration of justice. Such acts also seriously prejudiced and interfered with the rights of the litigants during the pendency of the litigation. It is not always necessary that the contemner should be party before the Court and for his deliberate acts of disobedience, any party, his agents, servants, collaborators and abettors would be answerable to the Court whose orders were violated and if found guilty would be liable to be punished or dealt with in accordance with law. The officers of the Company as instigators and abettors of such offences would also be guilty of contempt and they would also be liable even if by their inaction the Court's order was circumvented and frustrated, all leading to undermining the majesty and dignity of Court.

8. Mr. Chatterjee referred to the decision in Seaward v. Paterson, (1897) 1 Ch 545, in which it was held that the Court has undoubted jurisdiction to commit for contempt a person not included in an injunction or a party to the action who knowing the injunction, aids and abets a defendant in committing a breach of it. Lindley. L. J. observed :

'......... There is no injunction againsthim--he is no more bound by the injunction granted against P. than any other member of the public. He is bound, like other members of the public, not to interfere with, and not to obstruct, the course of justice: and the case, if any made against him must be this--not that he has technically infringed the injunction, which was not granted against him in any sense of the word, but that he has been aiding and abetting others in setting the Court at defiance and deliberately treating the order of the Court as unworthy of notice. If he has so conducted himself it is perfectly idle to say that there is no jurisdiction to attach him for contempt as distinguished froma breach of the injunction, which has a technical meaning.'

9. Mr. Chatterjee also referred to the following observations in District Judge, Chhindwara v. Basori Lal, AIR 1940 Nag 203.

'......... Ordinarily when a party to anaction disobeys a prohibitory order, such disobedience though wilful is contempt in procedure, whereas persons who aid and abet such disobedience and are not parties to the action are guilty of criminal contempt.........'

He also referred to the decision in Narain Singh v. S. Hardayal Singh, AIR 1958 Punj 180 in which it was observed:

'In order to reader a person amenable to an injunction, it is not indispensable, that he should have been a party to the suit in which the injunction was issued or that he should have been served with a copy of it. Such a person is amenable where with actual knowledge in his possession of the injunction he defied the injunction order. A stranger is not punishable for contempt for an act, with which he had no connection, for which he was not responsible, or for acts done without his knowledge or consent.' On these authorities, in the facts and circumstances stated above in brief. Mr. Chatterjee contends that all the other respondents are guilty of contempt for deliberate violation of the Court's order with full knowledge of its purport and meaning. The officers of the company are also guilty of contempt for their instigation to the said acts and also for their connivance therewith and failure to take appropriate or any action for enforcing the court's order.

10. Mr. Sankar Das Banerjee, appearing with Mr. Paritosh K. Mullick, learned Advocates for the Company Officers contended that even accepting that the alleged offences did take place as alleged the proper forum for trial of such offences would be the criminal Court of competent jurisdiction and the special jurisdiction of this Court should not be invoked for the purpose. He referred to the observation in Vernon Mil-ward Pason v. A. H. Skone, 43 CLJ 41 in which the Court was considering on appeal, the legality and propriety of an order of a single judge of this Court holding the appellant guilty of contempt for abusing and assaulting a Solicitors's clerk who went to serve a process of Court on him. The appeal bench of this Court on finding that the incident did happen as alleged did not interfere with the discretionary order impugned in the appeal with the following observation:

'.........In such case as this, where proceedings in the Magistrate's Court would be sufficient to meet the requirements of the case, it is not desirable to invoke the special jurisdiction inherent in this Court by way of proceedings for contempt of Court.'

Mr. Banerjee accordingly submitted that the offences, if any, should be tried before theappropriate criminal Court and the special jurisdiction of this Court should not be invoked for the purpose. He further contended that the alleged contemners who are officers of the company have denied all allegations against them and while the allegations of instigation and connivance against them are too vague to be taken any notice of, the allegations about their inaction in affording protection to the petitioners in the incidents alleged would not amount to any violation of the Court's order, and such officers cannot be expected to take over the duty and function of police.

11. Mr. Swapan Kumar Garai learned Advocate for the other contemners has referred me to the affidavits filed on their behalf denying all allegations of obstruction of and assault to the petitioners alleged to have been made by them and also the incidents as alleged by the petitioners. It has been denied on their behalf that they had violated any order of Court as alleged or that they had done' any act undermining the authority and dignity of Court.

12. The position emanating from the above discussions appears to be that a person with knowledge of the Court's order may the liable for contempt of Court for violating or disobeying such order and it is not indispensable that he should be a party. He would also be liable for contempt even if the injunction does not in term prohibit any action or impose any obligation on him, if it is established that the impugned action renders ineffective or frustrates an order passed by a Court prejudicing the petitioners in pending litigation. At the same time, if the alleged contempt is an offence punishable under the Indian Penal Code, its cognizance should not be taken by this Court in exercise of its discretionary powers and the case should be left for trial before a criminal Court of competent jurisdiction. It is further noted that when disputed questions of facts are involved in respect of the alleged contempt requiring examination of witnesses in a wide compass, a summary trial like the contempt proceeding may be inappropriate for adjudication that there has been a contempt or otherwise.

13. In the facts of the present case, the interim order was directed in terms on the District Magistrate, Nadia, Sub-Divisional Officer Ranaghat and Officer-in-charge Kalyani Police Station, respondents Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in the rule who were directed to act in accordance with law and to ensure safety of the petitioners' movements so that they could attend to their duties. Curiously enough, excepting stray and cursory allegations, there is no allegation that the said respondents acted in breach of their obligations under the law or under the Court's order. In fact they have not been made parties to the contempt application. The allegations against the officers of the Company are too vague to betaken notice of and in view of the denial, it is not possible to adjudicate on the same for reasons also noted below. The other contemners have disputed the allegations made against them and denied having committed various offences in violation of the Court's order. An adjudication of such disputed questions of fact will involve examination of witnesses in wide compass in this Court far off from the limit of jurisdiction of the local Court. It will not be proper or appropriate for such enquiry to be held in a summary jurisdiction in the trial of the contempt proceeding. Further as the alleged acts of contempt are offences under the Indian Penal Code, on the authorities indicated above and in exercise of its discretionary powers the task should not be undertaken by this Court in the attending facts and circumstances.

14. The application in the circumstances fails and is dismissed. There will be however no order as to costs.


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