Civil Misc. Petn. (Civil) No. 13066 of 1989 in Civil Appeal No. 2628 of 1980
1990 AIR 464, 1989 SCR Supl. (2) 561, 1990 SCC (1) 259, JT 1989 (4) 573, 1989 SCALE (2)1426
Sabyasachi Mukharji, V. Ramaswami, JJ
20th December 1989
Contempt of Courts Act, 1971
The petitioner, in this petition, has prayed the court for convicting Respondents 1 and 2 for having committed contempt of court through violation of terms and conditions of the undertaking filed in the Civil Appeal No. 2628 of 1980.
Whether the Respondents 1 and 2 are guilty of contempt of court for violating the terms and conditions of the undertaking of the Civil Appeal No. 2628 of 1980?
Noorali Babul Thanewala, the petitioner has filed a suit against Respondents 1 and 2 of the Civil Appeal No. 2628 of 1980 for contempt of court stating that the terms and conditions of the undertaking have been violated and prayed the Hon’ble Supreme Court to direct to hand over the suit premises possession to the petitioner.
The petitioner, who is the owner and landlord of the Tika No. 3 City Survey House, bearing Nos. 344/345, Jambli Naka, Thane property, where the Ramakrishna Hindu Hotel or Ramakrishna Hotel restaurant is operated, filed Civil Suit No. 213 of 1970 in the Court of Civil Judge, Senior Division, Thane, against the first respondent and four others, by name P.A. Dange, V.A. Dange, Haribhan Shivale, and Giri Anna Shetty. The suit was decreed by the Trial Court.
Respondent 1 has alone filed an appeal against the decree before the district court and it was dismissed by confirming the order of eviction. He further approached the High Court of Bombay under writ petition No. 354 of 1975 and the court upheld the lower court’s decree and dismissed the appeal. Finally, on approaching the Supreme Court, the appeal was dismissed on 18th August 1987. However, the court allowed the appellant to continue the business till 31st March 1989, stating, “appellant and all those persons who are now occupying the premises as employees or staff and are staying in the premises file a usual undertaking in this Court within eight weeks from today stating inter alia that they will hand over and deliver over vacant possession of the premises on the expiry of the period mentioned above and also indicate that they will go on depositing the mesne profits until the possession is delivered. In default of furnishing or filing the undertaking in the manner indicating within the time aforesaid the decree of execution shall become executable forthwith.”
Raghuram A. Shetty, the second respondent in this petition, filed Civil Suit No. 306 of 1989 in the Thane Civil Court sometime in the early months of 1989 asking for a declaration that the eviction order obtained concerning the subject premises in Civil Suit No. 213 of 1970 cannot be executed against him and for a permanent injunction against the petitioner. He also filed a request for a preliminary ban on carrying out the aforementioned decree. An interim injunction was granted as requested by the Thane Civil Court. This is how the petitioner, in this case, filed this contempt petition against the first respondent, the plaintiff in Civil Suit No. 306 of 1989, as well as the original tenant, K.M.M. Shetty.
The second respondent has filed a reply statement in which he contended that on November 29, 1986, P.A. Dange acquired the hotel business that was being operated by the tenant, K.M.M. Shetty, on the ground floor of the suit premises under the name and style of Ramkrishna Hindu Hotel, and that, according to an agreement dated January 2, 1967, the said P.A. Dange, with the tenant’s consent, transferred the said business and the exclusive possession of the later, on January 8, 1972, the tenant and the second respondent signed a new agreement under which the second respondent agreed to pay the tenant a royalty. To the petitioner’s knowledge, the second respondent was still occupying the property and operating a business, but he was not named as a party in the eviction suit or the subsequent proceeding, so he was not subject to the eviction decree. The landlord-petitioner has submitted a reply to this response.
This Court stated “the order granting the injunction against the petitioner from executing the eviction decree against the second respondent shall not be effective and that the petitioner is entitled to execute the decree for eviction against all people who are in possession of the property after discussing in detail the various developments of the case brought about by the first respondent as well as by the second respondent herein. The court found the first respondent guilty of contempt for wilfully disobeying the undertaking he made in front of the court.”
The question that had been raised in front of the Hon’ble Supreme Court was the punishment to be given to the first respondent and the relief to the petitioner. The learned counsel for the first respondent had stated on behalf of his client stated that his client was an 84-year-old man, and was willing to hand over vacant possession to the petitioner and that he was unable to comply with the undertaking bona fide given the facts and circumstances.
The court stated, “When an order is given on the basis of an undertaking, the order amounts in substance to an injunction restraining that party from acting in breach thereof. The breach of an undertaking given to the Court by or on behalf of a party to a civil proceeding is, therefore, regarded as tantamount to a breach of injunction although the remedies were not always identical.”
The court further stated, “To enforce an undertaking, it is treated as an order and if the terms and conditions of the undertaking are not complied by the party, there would be consequences upon them for the disobedience of an order for an injunction. It is established law that misconduct amounting to contempt includes violating an order of a court or an undertaking made by a party to a civil case in whose favour the court sanctions a certain course of action. In these situations, the remedy could be a warning to the contemnor to stop, a jail sentence, a fine, or any combination of those. We believe that a simple sentence of imprisonment or a fine will not serve the interests of justice in this case given the facts and circumstances and the fact that the undertaking was broken.”
The court decided that the first respondent is guilty of contempt of court due to the wilful disobedience of the undertaking. Accordingly, he was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs.500 within four weeks, failing which he would suffer simple imprisonment for one month, and also directed to deliver vacant possession of the premises forthwith to the petitioner to the extent possible by him. The court also further directed the District Magistrate, Thane, to evict all those who are in physical possession of the property including the 2nd respondent and his men, and if necessary, with police help and hand over the vacant possession of the premises to the petitioner. However, the court discharged the rule issued against the second respondent.
The courts are considered to be the administrators of justice in the nation. The order or decree passed by them is required to be followed. Apart from the Contempt of Courts Act 1971, the Constitution prioritizes the process of contempt of court to maintain justice and equality in society. Under the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court of India, i.e., the Court of Record can hold any party liable for contempt of court, if anything wrong has been committed against the decision of the courts under Article 129.
Also, Article 142 (a) states that the Supreme Court has the full authority to issue an order securing anyone’s attendance, the production of any documents, or the ability to penalize anybody for disobeying any law passed by the Parliament regarding the requirements specified in clause 1 of this Article. Since the Supreme Court has the authority to impose penalties for contempt of court, this does not imply that it can take any action that violates an individual’s right to personal liberty. We are aware that because the Indian Constitution is the custodian of all our rights, it must protect them and cannot infringe on them directly.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court made it clear that any person disobeying the decree of the court would be tried for contempt. The party’s non-compliance with the decree would disrupt the process of justice. The court has also made it clear that any undertaking given by the parties to the court will be considered an order and not adhering to the terms and conditions would also be considered contempt of court.
This article is written by K. Mihira Chakravarthy, 2nd year, B.A. L.L.B student from Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University.