Power Under Art. 129 Of Constitution To Punish A Person For Contempt Is Unrestricted By Contempt Of Courts Act 1971: Reiterates SC
Finding that the contemnor has shown scant respect to the judicial proceedings pending in the Court and defied assurance given to the Court that he has submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the Court, the Supreme Court said that act of denying the fact that he voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of this Court and his conduct of opposing the request for the grant of mirroring order amounts to interference with the administration of justice and obstructing the administration of justice.
Observing that the acts and omissions of the contemnor amount to both civil and criminal contempt, a Two Judge Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Abhay S. Oka considering his contumacious conduct, directed the contemnor to pay a fine of Rs. 25 lakhs and to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of six months for committing civil and criminal contempt.
The observation came in reference to the judgment and order dated Jan 16, 2023, whereby the Court had held the first Respondent (contemnor) guilty of contempt, for defying the orders of this Court in bringing back his child to India by July 01, 2022, whom he taken to USA.
Advocate Amit Pawan appeared for the Petitioner, whereas, Advocate Arvind Kumar Sharma appeared for the Respondent.
In a nutshell, it was contended by the counsel for the contemnor that pursuant to the proceedings of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois of Jan 24, 2023, one Mr Wasko was appointed as the Guardian Ad Litem. He submitted that as the child was subjected to sexual abuse while he was staying with the Petitioner in India, a forensic investigation is in progress in the USA and therefore, the child cannot be brought back to India unless the investigation is over. It was submitted that the contemnor has acted in a bona fide manner to protect the interests of the minor child, and since Guardian Ad Litem has been appointed, the contemnor cannot bring back the child to India so long as the appointment continues to exist.
After considering the submissions, the Apex Court noted that the contemnor never applied to this Court for a grant of extension of time to bring back the child and has always acted contrary to the statement made by him on more than one occasion that he has subjected himself to the jurisdiction of this Court.
The Bench further noted that even after the expiry of three months from the date of the order holding the contemnor guilty of contempt, he has not shown any remorse in any manner.
“The property of the contemnor’s mother was required to be sold due to the gross default committed by the contemnor. The contemnor is least bothered about the fact that his mother lost her property due to his default. However, apart from committing impropriety by informing the child about the details of the pending litigations, he tried to prejudice the minor’s mind by telling him that his ancestral property is being sold at the instance of the mother”, added the Bench.
The Bench further observed that the attempt of the contemnor before the Circuit Court was to ensure that his contumacious conduct, as reflected in the Circuit Court’s proceedings, should not be made available to this Court, and thus, his attempt was to suppress the proceedings.
Accordingly, the Apex Court sentenced the contemnor to undergo simple imprisonment for six months, and ordered him to pay a fine of Rs. 25 lakhs within a period of six months from today.
Cause title: Meenal Bhargava vs. Naveen Sharma and Ors.