1. This reference has been made by Ms. Archana Singh, Judicial Magistrate First Class, Bhopal against Sub-Inspector Veer Bhan Singh, who misbehaved with her in her duty hours and obstructed her in the course of judicial proceeding.
2. The facts as unfolded from the contempt petition are as follows:-
On 25.9.2010 about 4:45 P.M., when Ms. Archana Singh, Judicial Magistrate First Class, Bhopal was returning to Court from Central Jail, Bhopal, after conducting and presiding over the special bench of Lok Adalat organized in Central Jail, alongwith her staff in her car bearing registration no.UP/70-M-5959, which was having an Amber light and a plate of 'Nyayadhish', and reached near Lalghati Chouraha, Sub-Inspector Veer Bhan Singh came in front of her car and started thumping the bonnet of her car, asked the driver to get down from the car, and stopped the car at Lalghati Square. When Ms. Archana Singh, Judicial Magistrate First Class tried to alight from the car to know the reason, Sub-Inspector Veer Bhan Singh abruptly turned the steering wheel of the car from the window of driver side, with the result that her left foot came under the rear wheel of the car and she got injured. Within a short time the cavalcade of Chief Minister came in speed and passed by that road. When Ms. Archana Singh, Judicial Magistrate First Class told the Sub-Inspector that she is a Judge and returning from her duty to Court for concluding the remaining work and she has been injured and wants to get the medical aid, the Sub-Inspector misbehaved with her and stopped her car saying that the car will first go to the Police Station and began preparing a challan. When Ms. Archana Singh, J.M.F.C. asked him for what offence he was making a challan, the Sub-Inspector wrote the number of the car in his challan-book and asked the name of the driver and did not allow the car to proceed further. Ms. Archana Singh, J.M.F.C. then made a phone call to the District and Session Judge, Bhopal, who directed that Sub-Inspector should talk to him on cellphone, but Sub-Inspector Veer Bhan Singh declined to talk to him in a callous manner saying that let him talk to Superintendent of Police. Thereafter, when Mr. Gangacharan Dubey, the District Registrar called on phone and talked to Veer Bhan Singh, and he received a phone call from a Dy.S.P., he released the car. Then Ms. Archana Singh, J.M.F.C. after obtaining oral permission from the District Judge, went to the Police Station Koh-e-Fiza to lodge the report, but her report was not recorded. When District Registrar Shri Gangacharan Dubey alongwith Shri Yugal Raghuvanshi, JMFC and Shri Chhari DSP came to the Police Station, then only after an hour she was given first-aid and her written complaint was taken, but her FIR was not recorded. In this way, Ms. Archana Singh, JMFC while on duty, was humiliated, insulted and obstructed by Sub-Inspector Veer Bhan Singh in the course of judicial proceeding. A reference/complaint was, therefore, made by Ms. Archana Singh, J.M.F.C., through District and Sessions Judge, Bhopal to the High Court, which has been registered as contempt petition.
3. This Court issued a notice to Sub-Inspector Veer Bhan Singh posted at Police Station, Koh-e-Fiza, Bhopal to show cause why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him for misbehaving with a judicial officer on duty. In response to the show-cause notice, contemner Veer Bhan Singh made appearance before this Court and filed a reply to show-cause notice.
4. In his reply, filed by way of an affidavit, the contemner/respondent Veer Bhan Singh submitted that he is a Police Officer of 37 years' standing with an unblemished career and record of efficient working; on 25.9.2010, he was discharging the Traffic Police duty at Lalghati Square for smooth passage of cavalcade of Chief Minister through Lalghati Square around 16:30 hours. According to the contemner/respondent, he had received a wireless message at 16:23 hours regarding movement of Chief Minister's cavalcade from Raja Bhoj Airport; at 16:26 hours he was instructed by the Traffic Control Room to keep the route to the VIP road clear, therefore, he was diverting the traffic coming from Railway Crossing side to the road going to VIP Rest House. At the same time, around 16:24 hrs., a private maruti car bearing registration no.UP/70-M-5959 came from the Railway Crossing side, which he tried to divert by giving hand signals, but the driver of maruti car perhaps not understanding the indication/signal, started heading towards VIP road, whereupon, he immediately came in front of the car and asked the driver to stop immediately and not to move further towards VIP Road. At that very moment, he noticed that the vehicle of the Chief Minister's cavalcade was approaching Lalghati Square and out of sheer anxiety to keep the VIP movement free from any obstruction, he started thumping the bonnet of the car to make the driver understand that the road was required to be cleared immediately.
According to the contemner/respondent, the driver was probably not getting his instructions, in the meantime a lady came out of the car and asked him to talk on her mobile phone with someone, but at the same time the car rolled back on the slope and she got hurt on her ankle by the rear wheel of the car. Immediately after passing of the cavalcade of the Chief Minister, the driver and the person sitting in the car informed him of the identity of lady that she was a Magistrate of District Court, whereupon he immediately offered his sincere regrets for the inconvenience caused and also tried to explain the Magistrate that on account of his duty, he had to ensure the clear passage for the cavalcade of Chief Minister without any possible intrusion by any vehicle. But the magistrate was not ready to accept his sincere apologies and expressed that she would lodge a complaint against him and in a fit of rage left the spot; he then followed the Magistrate's car to Koh-e-Fiza Police Station and after reaching there he again expressed his sincere apologies and repentance to the Magistrate for the inconvenience caused to her on account of his faithfulness towards discharge of official duties. He again tried to explain the magistrate that as per his duty, he could not have allowed any vehicle to intrude the VIP route at that time, but the Magistrate was reluctant to accept his regret and apologies and she lodged a complaint against him about his alleged misbehavior at Koh-e-Fiza Police Station. It was also submitted by the contemner/respondent that he did not misbehave with the Magistrate, yet after service of a show-cause notice by the Superintendent of Police, Bhopal, he has been placed under suspension vide order dated 08.11.2010 (Annexure R-5) and Departmental Enquiry has been initiated against him. The contemner/respondent also personally went to the District Court, Bhopal on 30.10.2010, appeared before J.M.F.C. Ms. Archana Singh and by touching her feet begged her to forgive him and considering his sincere apologies, she condoned his alleged misbehaviour.
In the additional reply filed by the contemner/respondent dated 15.2.2011, the respondent/contemner tendered his unqualified and sincere apology for his conduct on 25.9.2010 and expressed his deep repentance from the core of his heart and submitted that he is a law abiding person possessing great respect and honour towards the Court and Judges. It is also submitted that in the departmental enquiry in respect of the same incident, the charges levelled against him are found proved and the major penalty of withholding of two increments with cumulative effect has been imposed on him vide order dated 11.2.2011 (Annexure A-1) passed by Superintendent of Police. An affidavit in support of the additional reply has also been filed by the contemner/respondent.
5. We have heard learned Advocate General and Shri R.N. Singh, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the contemner/respondent. Shri R.N. Singh, learned Senior Counsel, submitted that the contemner had no intention to cause annoyance or obstruction to the Judicial Officer and the incident occurred in discharge of his official duty, wherein he was required to divert the traffic at the Lalghati Square for smooth passage of cavalcade of Chief Minister and upon disclosure of identity of the Magistrate, the contemner expressed his apology and repentance to her and also later on went to the Court to touch her feet and asked her for a pardon. Learned counsel for the contemner also submitted that the contemner/respondent has submitted his unqualified apology for the alleged act and he should be pardoned and discharged from the instant contempt proceedings.
6. We have considered the submissions put forth by Shri R.N. Singh, learned Senior Counsel and have gone through the averments made in the contempt petition as well as in the reply affidavit filed by the contemner/respondent. We find that the contemner/respondent has virtually admitted the incident that occurred on 25.9.2010 with a lady judicial officer. The contemner/respondent has categorically admitted in his reply/affidavit that at the relevant time, he tried to divert the maruti car of the lady judicial officer bearing registration no.UP/70-M-5959 and also started thumping on the bonnet of the car of the lady judge, who came out of the car and asked him to talk on her mobile phone to someone, and by that time, the car rolled back and she got hurt on her ankle by the rear wheel of the car near Lalghati Square. The contemner has also admitted in para 13 of his reply affidavit that he had thumped the bonnet of the car by coming in front of it and stopped it. Thus, the substratum of the complaint made by lady judicial officer Ms. Archana Singh has been admitted by the contemner/respondent. Although the contemner/respondent has tried to depose that he was duty bound to clear the road for smooth passage of the cavalcade of the Chief Minister and he had also explained the same to the lady Magistrate and also submitted his apologies then and there, but the aforesaid submissions, are not found to be satisfactory. It is clearly evident from the averments made in the complaint of Ms. Archana Singh, the Judicial Officer, that the contemner had turned the steering wheel of her car from the window of driver side, which resulted in running over of her left leg by the rear wheel of the car.
7. Learned Magistrate has categorically mentioned in the complaint that the Police Officer, namely, Veer Bhan Singh misbehaved with her even after knowing her identity and the fact that she was returning from Jail Lok Adalat to Court for her duties, declined to talk to the District Judge on cellphone. It is also evident from her written complaint that the respondent/contemner was bent upon making challan of the car of the judicial officer despite knowing her identity as a judicial officer, though apparently, there was no fault on the part of the judicial officer or her driver. It is also evident from her written complaint that her car was also having an Amber light and a plate of 'Nyayadhish', yet it appears, that in a thrust of Police power, the contemner/respondent acted in a rash manner and began preparing challan of the vehicle without there being any fault on the part of the judge or her driver. The admitted fact of thumping on the bonnet of the car of the lady judicial officer by the contemner/respondent per se indicates that the contemner/respondent acted in a rage of Police power, forgetting all courtesy and humility to be observed with the public and that too with a lady judicial officer. Even if the contemner/respondent was duty bound to clear the road for smooth passage of the cavalcade of the Chief Minister, he was not supposed to misbehave with each and everyone forgetting his limitations of being a public servant; in any case the thumping of the bonnet of the car or turning of the steering wheel of the car of a lady judicial officer from the window of driver side, was not at all warranted.
8. We have no manner of doubt to suspect the correctness of contents and the averments made in the complaint made by a judicial officer Ms. Archana Singh, which is also fortified by the finding of guilt recorded by the disciplinary authority against the contemner/respondent in the departmental proceedings initiated against him in respect of the same incident, and consequent imposition of penalty on him.
9. It is clearly borne out from the averments made in the complaint and the enclosures that Ms. Archana singh, the lady judicial officer was on duty to preside over the special bench of Lok Adalat at Central Jail, Bhopal and she was returning from Central Jail to District Court through Lalghati Square for submitting the report, and concluding the work of Lok Adalat. There can be no manner of doubt that holding of Lok Adalat and continuance of its proceedings are part of judicial proceedings, and thus the contemner/respondent caused obstruction and interference in the judicial proceedings by stopping the vehicle of the lady judicial officer, who was on duty, in an unwanted fashion and thereby committed criminal contempt.
10. Criminal contempt is defined under Section 2 (c ) as under:- "2. (c) "Criminal contempt" means the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which- (d) scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court; or
(ii) prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding; or
(iii) interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner."
11. The contemner here is a Police Officer, who is supposed to know the majesty and dignity of a judicial officer, yet he misbehaved with a judicial officer on duty in the aforesaid manner and that too with a lady judicial officer, who was travelling in a car with Amber light and a plate of 'Nyayadhish' and thereby caused obstruction and interference in the course of judicial proceedings. We, therefore, find him guilty of committing criminal contempt of court.
12. It needs no emphasis that under Section 15(2) of the Contempt of Court of Act, 1971, the High Court can take action on a reference made by Subordinate Court. It has also been reiterated by the Apex Court in the case of Daroga Singh and others v. B.K. Pandey reported in AIR 2004 Supreme Court page 2579 that the procedure prescribed either under the Code of Criminal Procedure or under the Evidence Act is not attracted to the proceedings initiated under Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act and High Court can deal with such matters summarily and adopt its own procedure; the only caution that has to be observed by the Court in exercising this inherent power of summary procedure is that the procedure followed must be fair and the contemners are made aware of the charges levelled against them and given a fair and reasonable opportunity.
13. In the instant case, we have already issued a show-cause notice to the contemner of the allegations made in the complaint and he has filed the reply on affidavit, as also an additional reply supported by an affidavit. We have also heard him at length through Shri R.N. Singh, Senior Counsel appearing on his behalf. No doubt, the contemner/respondent has ultimately tendered his unqualified apology and prayed for a discharge from the contempt proceedings, but in the facts and circumstances of the case, mentioned hereinabove, we do not find it a fit case where the apology tendered later on should be accepted. On the other hand, we find it appropriate that contemner should be punished with simple imprisonment for fifteen days for committing contempt of Court in the aforesaid manner. Accordingly, we sentence him to undergo simple imprisonment for fifteen days.
14. However, in view of the fact that a major penalty of withholding of two increments with cumulative effect has been imposed on the contemner/respondent by his disciplinary authority, and only 2-3 years of his service are left, as he is due to retire in year 2013, as informed, we feel it proper that the sentence of imprisonment imposed on him should be kept in abeyance and he be released on probation of good conduct for a period of three years. As held by the Division Bench of this Court in the case of State of M.P. v. Virendra Singh Parihar reported in 1999 Cri. L.J. Page 2438, the High Court in exercise of its contempt jurisdiction can devise preventive and reformatory measures against the contemner instead of punishing him at once after holding him guilty.
15. Accordingly, we direct that the contemner/respondent would be released on probation of good conduct for a period of three years from today on his furnishing a personal bond with one surety in the sum of Rs.10,000/- (Ten Thousand rupees) to ensure that during the period of three years he shall not commit contempt of Court and shall conduct himself in a noble manner. If during this period he commits a contempt of Court he shall be liable to undergo the sentence imposed on him. The bonds shall be furnished before the Registrar (Judicial) of this Court within one month of this order. If the contemner/respondent fails to execute the bonds, as aforesaid, he shall be liable to suffer the term of imprisonment as awarded to him.
16. The contempt petition is accordingly disposed of.