2009(3) ALL MR 564
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY

SWATANTER KUMAR AND D.Y. CHANDRACHUD, JJ.

Mrs. Savitri Sippy Vs. Mr. Shahsikant Ghorpade & Ors.

Appeal (Lodg.) No.640 of 2008,Contempt Petition (Lodg.) No.82 of 2008,Writ Petition No.1562 of 2008

17th March, 2009

Petitioner Counsel: Ms. VEENA SIPPY
Respondent Counsel: Mr. A. S. DESAI,Mr. R. S. GHADGE

Contempt of Courts Act (1971), S.19 - Appeal - Scope of S.19 - Provisions of S.19 of the Act are explicit, unambiguous and provide restricted right of appeal - Expression "any order or decision", held, is wide enough to include and take its within ambit all orders passed in exercise of its jurisdiction to punish for contempt.

The provisions of Section 19 of the Act are explicit, unambiguous and provide restricted right of appeal. It states that an appeal shall lie as of right from an order or decision of the High Court in exercise of its jurisdiction to punish for contempt to the specified bench. It is a right granted under the statute and has to be controlled strictly in terms of the said provisions. It is only an order or decision punishing a contemnor that this statutory right is available. The expression "any order or decision" is wide enough to include and take it within the ambit of all orders passed in that direction in exercise of its jurisdiction to punish for contempt. In other words, it may not necessarily be an order of actual punishing the contemnor but may be a direction which is prejudicial to the contemnors and has been passed in exercise of contempt jurisdiction by the Court of competent jurisdiction but it shall not be applicable when Court does not exercise its jurisdiction to punish for contempt and discharge the notice. 2008(5) Mh.L.J. 661 - Rel. on. [Para 6]

Cases Cited:
Baradakanta Mishra Vs. Mr. Justice Gatikrushna Misra, Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court, AIR 1974 SC 2255 [Para 4]
Mohd. Mahmood Vs. A. Ramalakshman, 1995 Cr.L.J. 1106 [Para 4]
V. M. Manohar Prasad Vs. N. Ratnam Raju, (2004)13 SCC 610 [Para 5,7]
Hooghly District Central Co-operative Bank Ltd. Vs. Anoj Kumar Roy, 1997 Cri.L.J. 864 [Para 5,7]
Bombay Diocesan Trust Association Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Pastorate Committee of the Saint Andrews Church, Mumbai, 2008(5) Mh.L.J. 661 [Para 6,7]
Baradakanta Mishra's case, AIR 1976 SC 1206 [Para 7]
Mohd. Idrish's case, AIR 1984 SC 1826 [Para 7]
Ashoke Kumar Rai Vs. Ashoke Arora, 96 CWN 278 [Para 7]
Ashish Chakraborty Vs. Hindustan Lever Sramik Karmachari Congress, 96 CWN 673 [Para 7]
Midnapur Peoples' Co-op. Bank Ltd. Vs. Chunilal Nanda, (2006)5 SCC 399 [Para 7]
Smt. Ujjam Bai Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1962 SC 1621 [Para 7]
Dayabhai Poonambhai Patel Vs. The Regional Transport Authority, AIR (38) 1951 Madhya Bharat 121 [Para 7]
R. Vs. Serumaga, (2005)2 ALL ER 160 [Para 7]


JUDGMENT

SWATANTER KUMAR, C.J.:- The present Appeal is directed against the order dated 25th September, 2008 passed by the learned Single Judge in Contempt Petition (Lodging) No.82 of 2008 vide which the Court declined to take any action against the Respondents in that Petition under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 and discharged the notice issued to the non-Applicants.

2. It is not necessary for us to notice the facts in detail, suffice it to notice that the Court dealing with Writ Petition No.1562 of 2008 had passed the order dated 25th June, 2008, which order reads as under :-

"1. Mr. Desai states that the petition will be numbered within a period of 10 days from today.

2. Upon this undertaking and statement the petition is taken up for admission. Heard Mr. Desai appearing for the petitioners, Mr. Satalekar, A. G. P appearing for respondent Nos.1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 and the power of attorney holder of respondent is also present and heard. Learned A.G.P. and the power of attorney holder waive service.

3. Prima facie, an arguable question with regard to the execution of bond contemplated by section 73(1-AB) of Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act, 1960 read with Rule 58-A arises for consideration. Whether the bond furnished by the Managing Committee members on one stamp paper but signed by each one of them except Mrs. Tarulata Sheth satisfies the legal requirement or not is the question. Prima facie there is no dispute that the bond is furnished within the statutory period of 15 days on assumption of office. Therefore, the order disqualifying the petitioner would require further scrutiny. Hence, Rule. Hearing expedited.

4. There will be interim order in terms of prayer clause (b). However, the benefit of this interim order shall not be available to Mrs. Tarulata Sheth and the authorities can proceed on the basis that she stands disqualified as Managing Committee member. It is also clarified that the present interim order does not prevent the authorities from taking cognizance of any complaint and proceed against the Managing Committee members under sec.78(1) of Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act, 1960 or otherwise, if requirements in that behalf are satisfied."

3. According to the Petitioner in the Contempt Petition, it was claimed that the Respondents, particularly Respondent No.3 has not given effect to the said order of the Court and thus have violated the directions of the Court rendering them liable under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act"). The learned Single Judge heard the parties and after perusing the documents filed before it, held as under :-

"6. It is not possible to comprehend as to how respondent nos.1 and 2 have committed contempt of this Court. The order passed by the Co-operative Court has been stayed by the order passed by this Court in Writ Petition (Lodging) No.1493 of 2008 by its order dated 25th June, 2008. The matter is pending in this Court. No direction has been given by any court to respondent nos.1 and 2 to appoint an Administrator under Section 78 of the Co-operative Societies Act. No contempt, therefore, has been committed by the respondent nos.1 and 2 under the provisions of Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 and/or Article 215 of the Constitution of India.

7. Apart from that the petitioner is the constituted Power of Attorney of the member and therefore, even otherwise, is not competent to file a petition and argue on behalf of member. In any case, there is no substance in the submission made by the Constituted Power of Attorney of the petitioner who is appeared in person."

4. The Respondents in the Appeal before us have taken a preliminary objection in regard to the maintainability of the present Appeal. It is argued that if no order of punishment is passed and/or the Court discharges the notice of contempt and drops the proceedings, such an order or decision is not appealable under the provisions of Section 19 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. In this regard, reliance has been placed upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in Baradakanta Mishra Vs. Mr. Justice Gatikrushna Misra, Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court, AIR 1974 SC 2255, and the judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Mohd. Mahmood Vs. A. Ramalakshman, 1995 Cr.L.J. 1106.

5. As opposed to this, it is contended on behalf of the Appellant that even if notice of contempt is discharged and none is punished still the order will be appealable under Section 19 of the Act. The Appellant places reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in V. M. Manohar Prasad Vs. N. Ratnam Raju & Anr., (2004)13 SCC 610 and the judgment of the Calcutta High Court in Hooghly District Central Co-operative Bank Ltd. Vs. Anoj Kumar Roy, 1997 Cri.L.J. 864. Certain other arguments were also raised on behalf of the Appellant but we do not wish to deal with the same as we are considering the question of maintainability of the appeal alone and in any case, we have not heard the appeal on merits.

6. The provisions of Section 19 of the Act are explicit, unambiguous and provide restricted right of appeal. It states that an appeal shall lie as of right from an order or decision of the High Court in exercise of its jurisdiction to punish for contempt to the specified bench. It is a right granted under the statute and has to be controlled strictly in terms of the said provisions. It is only an order or decision punishing a contemnor that this statutory right is available. The expression "any order or decision" is wide enough to include and take it within the ambit of all orders passed in that direction in exercise of its jurisdiction to punish for contempt. In other words, it may not necessarily be an order of actual punishing the contemnor but may be a direction which is prejudicial to the contemnors and has been passed in exercise of contempt jurisdiction by the Court of competent jurisdiction but it shall not be applicable when Court does not exercise its jurisdiction to punish for contempt and discharge the notice. It will be useful to refer to a recent judgment of a Division Bench of this Court in the case of Bombay Diocesan Trust Association Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Pastorate Committee of the Saint Andrews Church, Mumbai & Ors., 2008(5) Mh.L.J. 661 where, after referring to the various judgments of the Supreme Court, some of the judgments relied upon by the parties are discussed and the Court held as under :-

"29. The principles which emerge from the consistent view taken by the Courts including the Supreme Court is, there has to be a conscious determination of rights and liabilities between the parties to a lis before the Court of competent jurisdiction. Undisputedly, contempt is a matter primarily between the Court and the contemnor. The proceedings of Contempt of Court would be initiated against the contemnor through any of the specified modes with or without consent of the specified authorities depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. The contempt jurisdiction vested in the Court by development of law as well as under the statutory provision is very wide and is of pervasive magnitude. A party to the proceedings before the Court may bring to the notice of the Court any matter which invites the attention of the Court for taking any action under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act. Once such act is done, the matter squarely falls in the exclusive domain of the Court of competent jurisdiction, as the purpose of contempt jurisdiction is primarily to ensure enforcement of the order of the Court and to maintain the dignity of the judicial administrative system. The contempt proceedings per se are not taken or declined for the benefit or interest of the individual party. When the Court passes an order of discharge or holds that no case for contempt of Court is made out and declines to take action, no right or interest of the parties to the lis are determined by the Court much less finally. Such an order besides being not appealable on the bare reading of the provisions of section 19 of the Contempt of Courts Act, would also not be a judgment within the meaning of clause 15 of the Letters Patent and as such, not appealable. The provisions of section 19 of the Act are not ambiguous and do not leave any scope for addition or substitution of a word. Definite legislative intent is clear that right to appeal shall only be available in the cases where there is an order of punishment. The matter primarily and substantially being between the Court and the contemnor, parties to the lis cannot be permitted to raise issues or litigate on the view of the Court that a case of contempt is made out or not. Where the Court in exercise of its judicial discretion and keeping in mind the well settled principles of contempt jurisdiction finds that contempt proceedings need not be initiated, or no contempt is made out or discharges the contemnor on merits of the case, the appeal before the Division Bench even with the aid of clause 15 of the Letters Patent would not be maintainable. In the present case, the learned Single Judge has concluded, as already noticed, that the petitioners themselves are not sure as to which of the contemnors are allowed to use the Welfare Centre and while taking an overall view of the matter held that this was not a fit case where action under the Contempt of Courts Act can be taken. This order of the learned Single Judge, in our opinion, is not appealable in view of the unambiguous language of section 19 of the Contempt of Courts Act and an appeal is not maintainable even under clause 15 of the Letters Patent. Although we have no hesitation in rejecting this appeal as being not maintainable. In the facts and circumstances of this case, parties are left to bear their own cost."

7. The Appellant argued with some emphasis that the order of discharge or dropping the contempt proceedings or the findings that a person is not guilty of contempt, all are the orders which would be appealable under Section 19 of the Act. It was also argued that the judgments relied upon by the Respondents are different on facts as they relate to criminal contempt and have no application to the facts of the present case. Both these arguments are misconceived in fact and in law. The provisions of Section 19 of the Act are applicable to both, the civil and/or criminal contempt. With regard to the maintainability of an appeal arising from the order of punishment passed either in a criminal contempt or a civil contempt, no distinction in regard to maintainability of an appeal can be drawn. Furthermore, the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of V. M. Manohar Prasad (supra) clearly states in paragraph 8 thereof that even if no one is punished for contempt, no appeal will lie but if a direction is given by a Court without jurisdiction, an appeal may lie and the Court made a specific reference to the facts where the Learned Single Judge in that case had disposed of the contempt matter but directed the Authorities and the State Government to sanction the posts. The Supreme Court found that no such direction could be issued therefore the appeal is maintainable. These observations firstly do not state any absolute proposition of law and are peculiar to the facts and circumstances of that case. Secondly, where in a contempt petition a direction is issued without punishing a person but such a direction is materially prejudicial to the interest of alleged contemnor, an appeal may lie depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case. Even in the judgment of the Calcutta High Court in the case of Anoj Kumar Roy (supra), though the Court had not punished the contemnor for contempt but had issued certain directions in exercise of its jurisdiction under the Contempt of Courts Act, resultantly such order was held to be appealable. Referring to the second Baradakanta Mishra's case reported in AIR 1976 SC 1206, the Court noticed that unless those orders or decisions in which some points are decided or findings are given in exercise of jurisdiction of the High Court to punish the contemnor under Section 19 of the Act and further referring to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Mohd. Idrish's case reported in AIR 1984 SC 1826, it observed that it is therefore absolutely clear that once the Court exercises its jurisdiction and passes some order by way of or in lieu of punishment whether the said order is remedial or not would come within the purview of the words "Orders or decision" as engrafted in Section 19(1) of the Act. As far as judgments of the Calcutta High Court in the cases of Ashoke Kumar Rai Vs. Ashoke Arora & Anr., 96 CWN 278 and Ashish Chakraborty & Ors. Vs. Hindustan Lever Sramik Karmachari Congress & Ors., 96 CWN 673 are concerned, the principles laid down therein may not be proper exposition of law in view of the latest judgment of the Supreme Court in Midnapur Peoples' Co-op. Bank Ltd. & Ors. Vs. Chunilal Nanda & Ors., (2006)5 SCC 399 as referred in the judgment of a Division Bench of this Court in Bombay Diocesan Trust Association Pvt. Ltd.'s case (supra). The principles laid down in Smt. Ujjam Bai Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr., AIR 1962 SC 1621 and Dayabhai Poonambhai Patel Vs. The Regional Transport Authority & Anr., AIR (38) 1951 Madhya Bharat 121 have no direct relevance to the facts of the present case. The judgment in R. Vs. Serumaga, (2005)2 ALL ER 160 has no application to the present case as that judgment is with reference to a specific provision of Section 13 of the Administration of Justice Act, 1960, which is English Law.

8. In light of the above settled position of law, we have no hesitation in holding that the present appeal is not maintainable as it is not an order or decision within the ambit and scope of Section 19 of the Act. The learned Judge has exercised his discretion and has found, as a matter of fact, that the non-applicant, the alleged contemnor, had not violated any undertaking or the order of the Court and resultantly has discharged the contempt proceedings. We see no reason to accept the arguments by the Appellant that the present appeal is maintainable. Consequently, the Appeal is dismissed, however, leaving the parties to bear their own costs.

Appeal dismissed.