The Delhi High Court has sentenced a man to six months in jail for contempt of court, emphasizing the importance of upholding the rule of law and the dignity of the judiciary.

A Bench of Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav stated that it is essential to protect the rule of law to maintain the integrity of judicial proceedings and to scrutinize deliberate disregard for it. Such actions can erode public trust in the judiciary. The Court added, “Therefore, an unbridled interference with the administration of justice and wilful disregad for the judicial proceedings has to be checked on the anvil of contempt jurisprudence, lest it undermines the dignity of the judiciary in the eyes of the common man.”

In this case, the contemnor was found guilty of contempt for deliberately failing to fulfill his commitments to the High Court. He had promised to pay compensation of approximately Rs 13 lakh to the widow of his deceased driver. The driver had repeatedly asked for his unpaid salary, but the contemnor allegedly assaulted him, and the driver later died by suicide.

The widow had filed a petition in the high court in 2019 to enforce a 2017 compensation order in her favor. The court had initiated a contempt proceeding in the matter.

Advocate Rajeev K. Virmani appeared for the Petitioner and Advocate Aditi Sarawat appeared for the Respondent.

The Court noted that the contemnor had not made any substantial effort to honor his commitments regarding the payment. Despite multiple assurances, he had not paid even a fraction of the awarded sum. The Court added, “This court is of the considered opinion that the contemnor has not only wilfully disobeyed the directions passed by this court but has also wilfully disobeyed his own undertaking.”

The Court observed, “that the contemnor wilfully disobeyed his own undertakings, giving several false assurances on various occasions to the court. It is also to be noted that because of the contemnor's undertaking only, this court had taken a particular view to release the contemnor from the jail. Had the same not been done, the court would have proceeded with the matter at that stage itself.”

The Court expressed that such conduct undermines the majesty of the law and the justice system. A constitutional democracy relies on the rule of law, which must be vigorously upheld to preserve the sanctity of judicial proceedings.

The Court added, “This court is of the opinion that one cannot be allowed to trounce the majesty of law and pollute the streams of justice by brazenly engaging in contumacious conduct with an aim of hoodwinking the judicial system. The edifice of a vibrant constitutional democracy rests on the pillars of rule of law, which needs to be preserved with full vigour to maintain the sanctity of judicial proceedings.”

The contemnor's lawyer argued for leniency, claiming he lacked the means to pay and never intended to defy the court's orders. However, the Court noted that the evidence suggested the contemnor had actively participated in the 2022 MCD elections and was involved in a transport business and owned property in Agra.

The Court observed that the contemnor had shown a lack of respect for the law, repeatedly evaded court appearances, and breached his commitments. As a result, it imposed a six-month prison sentence as the maximum punishment believing that merely imposing a fine would not suffice to uphold the court's dignity and the circumstances of the case.

Cause Title: Court On Its Own Motion v. Amar Singh Bhalla, [2023:DHC:6741]

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