Every Citizen of our country is bound by the orders of the Hon'ble Courts and no
one, howsoever powerful, dare disobey the binding and final orders of the Court
else he has to face the ire of the Court. No authority can afford to wilfully
disobey the orders of the Court for the fear of being prosecuted under the
Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
It is relevant to refer to a recent Judgment of Telangana High Court in Contempt
No.298 of 2020. The brief facts of the case are a Contempt Case was filed
by the petitioners to punish the respondents for wilful disobedience of the
order dated 12.10.2018 in I.A.No.1 of 2018 in Writ Petition No.37623 of 2018
passed by the High Court under Sections 10 to 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act,
The Telangana High Court in the said case of Ummenthala Mutha Reddy And Others
v. D. Krishna Bhaskar And Others
held the District Collector & Joint Collector
and Administrator, (Rehabilitation and Resettlement) and Land Acquisition
Officer cum Revenue Divisional Officer of the Rajanna Sircilla District guilty
of contempt of court for wilful disobedience of its order and sentenced them to
undergo simple imprisonment for three months and to pay fine of Rs.2,000/-
besides payment of costs of Rs.10,000/- to each of the petitioners. This
landmark Judgment rules that every administrative officer, however big &
powerful, is under bounden duty to follow the dictum of the Court unreservedly.
Not following the binding order of the Court tantamount to Contempt of the
Honorable Court and have to face the ire of the Court.
The Petitioners were small farmers of agricultural lands in Anantagiri village
whose lands were acquired for construction of Anantagiri Reservoir under the
Right to Fair Compensation, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. The
Petitioners filed a Writ Petition in October, 2018 contending inter-alia that
the acquisition is bad in law for a number of reasons and assailed the
acquisition on ground of insufficiency of Compensation and for lack of following
the due procedure for acquisition & granting benefits as per the said Act.
It is relevant that vide order dated 12.10.2018 in I.A. No. 1 of 2018 the High
Court had ordered that the petitioners shall not be dispossessed until relief
and rehabilitation benefits have been paid to them under Section 31 & 38 of Act
30 of 2013. However, in blatant violation to the said restraint orders, the
possession of the impugned lands were taken over & works carried out by the
Respondent nos. 1 to 3 in-spite of the fact that the aforesaid interim order was
communicated by petitioners to the 3 respondent and it was requested not to
further damage crops and lands as per the binding orders of the High Court.
The Court was irked when the Petitioners informed the Court that on objections
by the Petitioners' to such wilful disobedience of a judicial order, they were
threatened by the police employed by the Respondents.
The Court after detailed examination of facts and the uncontroverted averments
in the affidavits held all 3 Respondents guilty of wilful disobedience of the
orders of the High Court and held thus:
49. In this view of the matter, the Contempt Case is allowed; the respondents 1
to 3 are sentenced to simple imprisonment for three (3) months and fine of Rs.
2,000/-. They shall also pay costs of Rs. 10,000/- to each of the petitioners
within four (4) weeks.
50. The petitioners shall deposit subsistence allowance at Rs. 200/- per day for
each of the respondents within six (6) weeks. The sentence of imprisonment
imposed on the respondents is suspended for six (6) weeks.
51. An adverse entry shall be recorded in the service records of respondents as
regards their willful disobedience of the orders dt.12.10.2018 passed by this
Court in I.A. No. 1 of 2018 in W.P. No. 37623 of 2018.
It is relevant that Article 129 and 215 of the Indian Constitution provides that
the Supreme Court of India and High Courts respectively shall be a Court of
Record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to
punish for contempt of itself. The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, divides
contempt into civil and criminal. In addition to these courts, certain
administrative tribunals also have been given the power to punish for contempt,
in their governing statutes.
Civil contempt, defined in Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, is wilful
disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of
a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court. Criminal contempt,
defined in Section 2(c), is committed when anything is published, or done, which scandalises, or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority
of, any court, or prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the
due course of any judicial proceeding, or interferes or tends to interfere with,
or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other
The offence of criminal contempt has been held to cover false
statements made to or about the judiciary, coercion and attempts to pervert
judicial proceedings by attacking witnesses, parties, or judges, recording court
proceedings without permission from the court, obstructing officers of the court
from performing their functions, as well as verbal abuse and accusations of
incompetence or bias against judges.
Both civil and criminal contempt share the same punishment under the Contempt of
Courts Act 1971. The Act allows for a maximum term of imprisonment for six
months, and this can be supplemented with a fine of up to Rs.2000. The Contempt
of Courts Act 1971 also specifically allows courts to forgo the punishment if an
apology is made to the court, and may use their discretion to determine whether
the apology has been sufficient.
It is relevant that Only & Only Wilful & Deliberate Disobedience to Court's
Order amounts to Contempt of the Court. The Supreme Court has recently in the
case of Rama Narang vs Ramesh Narang & others 2021SCC OnLine SC 29, decided on
19-01-2021 has univocally held that before punishing a person 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.
It would be trite to quote the relevant paragraphs of the said judgment of the
Apex Court which reads as under:
73. Apart from that, for bringing an action for civil contempt, the petitioner
has to satisfy the court that there has been a wilful disobedience of any
judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of the Court. It will
be relevant to refer to paragraph (9) of the judgment of this Court in Niaz
Mohammad and Others v. State of Haryana and Others (1994) 6 SCC 332
“9. Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred to
as ‘the Act’) defines “civil contempt” to mean “wilful disobedience to any
judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court …”. Where
the contempt consists in failure to comply with or carry out an order of a court
made in favour of a party, it is a civil contempt.
The person or persons in
whose favour such order or direction has been made can move the court for
initiating proceeding for contempt against the alleged contemner, with a view to
enforce the right flowing from the order or direction in question. But such a
proceeding is not like an execution proceeding under Code of Civil Procedure.
The party in whose favour an order has been passed, is entitled to the benefit
of such order.
The court while considering the issue as to whether the alleged contemner should be punished for not having complied with and carried out the
direction of the court, has to take into consideration all facts and
circumstances of a particular case. That is why the framers of the Act while
defining civil contempt, have said that it must be wilful disobedience to any
judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court. Before a
contemner is punished for non-compliance of the direction of a court, the court
must not only be satisfied about the disobedience of any judgment, decree,
direction or writ but should also be satisfied that such disobedience was wilful
The civil court while executing a decree against the
judgment-debtor is not concerned and bothered whether the disobedience to any
judgment, or decree, was wilful. Once a decree has been passed it is the duty of
the court to execute the decree whatever may be consequence thereof. But while
examining the grievance of the person who has invoked the jurisdiction of the
court to initiate the proceeding for contempt for disobedience of its order,
before any such contemner is held guilty and punished, the court has to record a
finding that such disobedience was wilful and intentional.
If from the
circumstances of a particular case, brought to the notice of the court, the
court is satisfied that although there has been a disobedience but such
disobedience is the result of some compelling circumstances under which it was
not possible for the contemner to comply with the order, the court may not
punish the alleged contemner.”
It can thus be seen, that this Court has held,
that the contempt proceeding is not like an execution proceeding under the Code
of Civil Procedure. It has been held, that though the parties in whose favour,
an order has been passed, is entitled to the benefits of such order, but the
Court while considering the issue as to whether the alleged contemnor should be
punished for not having complied with and carried out the directions of the
Court, has to take into consideration all facts and circumstances of a
It has been held, that is why the framers of the Act while
defining civil contempt, have said that it must be wilful disobedience of any
judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of the Court. It has
been held, that 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.
Though, the civil court while executing a decree against the judgment-debtor is
not concerned and bothered as to whether the disobedience to any judgment or
decree was wilful and once the decree had been passed, it was the duty of the
court to execute the decree, whatever may be the consequences thereof. 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.
has been held, that if from the circumstances of a particular case, though the
Court is satisfied that there has been a disobedience but such disobedience is
the result of some compelling circumstances, under which it is not possible for
the contemnor to comply with the same, the Court may not punish the alleged
74. It will also be apposite to refer to the following observations of this
Court in Kanwar Singh Saini v. High Court of Delhi
(2012) 4 SCC 307 taking a
“30. In an appropriate case where exceptional circumstances exist, the court may
also resort to the provisions applicable in case of civil contempt, in case of
violation/breach of undertaking/judgment/order or decree.
passing any final order on such application, the court must satisfy itself that
there is violation of such judgment, decree, direction or order and such
disobedience is wilful and intentional. Though in a case of execution of a
decree, the executing court may not be bothered whether the disobedience of the
decree is wilful or not and the court is bound to execute a decree whatever may
be the consequence thereof.
In a contempt proceeding, the alleged contemnor may
satisfy the court that disobedience has been under some compelling
circumstances, and in that situation, no punishment can be awarded to him. [See
Niaz Mohammad v. State of Haryana
[(1994) 6 SCC 332], Bank of Baroda v.
Sadruddin Hasan Daya [(2004) 1 SCC 360: AIR 2004 SC 942] and Rama Narang v.
[(2006) 11 SCC 114: AIR 2006 SC 1883].] Thus, for violation of a
judgment or decree provisions of the criminal contempt are not attracted.”
75. It will also be appropriate to refer to the further observations made by
this Court in para (38) of the said judgment:-
“38. The contempt proceedings being quasi-criminal in nature, the standard of
proof required is in the same manner as in 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.
case should not rest only on surmises and conjectures. In Debabrata
Bandhopadhyaya v. State of W.B
. [AIR 1969 SC 189 : 1969 Cri LJ 401] , this Court
observed as under: (AIR p.193, para 9) “9. A question whether there is contempt
of court or not is a serious one. The court is both the accuser as well as the
judge of the accusation. It behoves the court to act with as great
circumspection as possible making all allowances for errors of judgment and
difficulties arising from inveterate practices in courts and tribunals.
only when a clear case of contumacious conduct not explainable otherwise, arises
that the contemnor must be punished. … 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. To take action in an unclear case is to make the law of
contempt do duty for other measures and is not to be encouraged.(emphasis added)
This Court has observed, that 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.
The Court has also referred to the observations made by this Court in the case
of Debabrata Bandopadbyay and Others v. State of West Bengal and Another
AIR 1969 SC 189 wherein 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.
There is a common misconception in the Government functionaries that they can
ignore the judgment as they do not find the same acceptable to them or that the
judgment loses its binding nature once it has been appealed against and the
matter is sub-judice and need not be followed. It would be trite to refer to the
Apex Court Judgment in Union of India And Others vs Kamlakshi Finance
AIR 1992 SC 711, which categorically dealt with such a situation
& held as under:
The High Court has, in our view, rightly criticised this conduct of the
Assistant Collectors and the harassment to the assessee caused by the failure of
these officers to give effect to the orders of authorities higher to them in the
appellate heirarchy.... The principles of judicial discipline require that the
orders of the higher appellate authorities should be followed unreservedly by
the subordinate authorities.
The mere fact that the order of the appellate authority is not acceptable to
the department - in itself an objectionable phrase - and is the subject matter
of an appeal can furnish no ground for not following it unless its operation has
been suspended by a competent court. If this healthy rule is not followed, the
result will only be undue harassment to assessees and chaos in administration of
It is imperative for all subordinate courts or officials to abide by the orders
of the higher courts else they may be prosecuted under the Contempt of Court
Act, 1971 to their detriment.
Written By: Inder Chand Jain
Ph no: 8279945021, Email: [email protected]