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Rama Narang vs. Ramesh Narang - (Supreme Court) (19 Jan 2021)

In a contempt proceeding before a contemnor is held guilty and punished, Court has to record a finding, that disobedience was wilful and intentional


Contempt of Court

The present contempt petition arises out of an unfortunate family dispute between a father on one hand and his two sons from his first wife on the other hand. A preliminary objection was taken regarding the maintainability of the contempt petition. According to the Respondents, in the absence of any undertaking given to the Court, present Court could not exercise its jurisdiction on mere violation of the terms of the Consent Order. It is the main contention of the Petitioner that invoking the jurisdiction of the CLB and entertaining the said proceedings by the CLB, itself amounts to contempt.

Merely taking recourse to the statutory remedy available to the Respondents would not amount to contempt. Before punishing the contemnor for non-compliance of the decision of the Court, the Court must not only be satisfied about the disobedience of any judgment, decree, direction, writ or other process but should also be satisfied that, such disobedience was wilful and intentional. In a contempt proceeding before a contemnor is held guilty and punished, the Court has to record a finding, that such disobedience was wilful and intentional. The contempt proceedings are quasi-criminal in nature and the standard of proof required is in the same manner as in the other criminal cases. The alleged contemnor is entitled to the protection of all safeguards/rights which are provided in the criminal jurisprudence, including the benefit of doubt. There must be a clear-cut case of obstruction of administration of justice by a party intentionally, to bring the matter within the ambit of the said provision. In the case of Debabrata Bandopadbyay and Ors. v. State of West Bengal and Anr., it was observed, that punishment under the law of contempt is called, for when the lapse is deliberate and in disregard of one's duty and in defiance of authority.

In the present case, the Petitioner has failed to make out a case of wilful, deliberate and intentional disobedience of any of the directions given by this Court or acting in breach of an undertaking given to this Court. On the contrary, the Respondents had taken recourse to the legal remedy available to them under the statutory provisions.

Any order passed by the CLB was appellable before the higher forums. Undisputedly, the Petitioner has not challenged the said order. Having not challenged the same, it is not open for the Petitioner to argue, that since the Petitioner has taken objection as to maintainability of the proceedings before CLB, the said orders are without jurisdiction and the initiation of the proceedings and the orders passed thereon, would amount to respondent’s committing contempt of this Court. The argument needs to be rejected, in view of the judgment of this Court in the case of Tayabbhai M. Bagasarwalla. This Court in unequivocal terms has held, that even if the objection is raised to the jurisdiction of a forum, it has jurisdiction to pass interim orders till it finally decides the issue of jurisdiction and such orders are binding on the parties till the issue of jurisdiction is decided.

As could be seen from the order of the CLB dated 10th April 2008, though the CLB by referring to Sections 397, 398 and 399 of the Companies Act, prima facie, has observed, that only if maintainability is challenged either in terms of Section 399 of the Companies Act or on the ground of jurisdiction of the Board, the same will have to be considered first and challenges on other grounds, had to be considered along with the merits of the case. The CLB has further observed, that it was an admitted fact, that the Petitioner qualifies under Section 399 of the Act and the Court has the jurisdiction to deal with the petition under Section 397 or/and 398 of the Act. Having chosen not to challenge the aforesaid observations of the CLB, the argument advanced deserves no merit and needs to be rejected. However, it should not be construed, that, present Court have held that, the proceedings under the CLB were maintainable in law. Since the proceedings are pending final adjudication, the parties would be at liberty to raise all issues available to them including the issue of jurisdiction. The present contempt petition is without any merit and deserves to be dismissed, and is accordingly dismissed.


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