Subordinate court can’t initiate contempt proceedings, SC upholds HC’s view

Subordinate court can’t initiate contempt proceedings, SC upholds HC’s view

By Aqib Ahmad  

New Delhi: Supreme Court has upheld J&K high court’s view that trial court does not have any jurisdiction to initiate proceedings under the Jammu and Kashmir Contempt of Courts Act, 1997.
“Though we do not have any quarrel with the settled position of law, as held by the High Court that the trial court does not have any jurisdiction to initiate proceedings under the Jammu and Kashmir Contempt of Courts Act, 1997, we find that the High Court has omitted to take note of the fact that there are two separate proceedings under different contracts,” a division bench of the apex court comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and r. Banumathi said while hearing special leave petition against high court’s verdict,  allowing a petition challenging CJM Srinagar’s 6 November 2013 order which had dismissed a contempt petition alleging willful violation of its interim order in a suit titled M/s ACE Enterprises Vs Union of India and others.
The apex court also issued notice to respondents even as it stayed “further proceedings pursuant to the high court’s order.”
The petitioner had challenged the CJM’s order before the high court on the ground the trial court has exercised such jurisdiction as was not vested in it in law.
“This is a petition filed under Section 104 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir read with Article 227 of the Constitution of India. If this Court had the jurisdiction to sit in appeal over the impugned order and proceed to legally analyze it on the touch stone of established law, given the reasoning recorded by the learned Sub-Judge (CJM), it would not withstand the scrutiny of law even for fraction of a second,” a single bench of the high court had said.
In terms Section 104 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir and Article 227 of the Constitution of India, the high court had said that the high Court has the power of general superintendence to keep the subordinate courts “within the bounds of their authority, to see that they do what their duty requires them to do and that they do it in a legal manner.
“It needs to bear in mind that contempt proceedings are essentially a matter which concern the administration of justice and are intended to be a protection to the public whose interests would be very much affected if by the act or conduct of any party, the authority of the court is lowered and sense of confidence which people have in the administration of justice by it is weakened. Contempt jurisdiction is not to be invoked for redress of grievances,” the high court had said.
However, the court had said that it does not mean that the subordinate courts do not have any power to punish a person for disobedience of its interim orders.
“Order XXXIX Rule 2-A of the Code of Civil Procedure provides for the consequences of disobedience or breach of injunction. It provides that in the case of disobedience of any injunction granted or other order made under rule 1 or rule 2 or breach of any of the terms on which the injunction was granted or the order was made, the court granting the injunction or making the order or any court to which the suit or proceeding is transferred, may order the property of the person guilty of such disobedience or breach to be attached, and may also order such person to be detained in the civil prison, for a term not exceeding three months unless in the meantime the court directs his release,” the court had said.

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