Persons violating court orders deserve no mercy: Supreme Court | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Persons violating court orders deserve no mercy: Supreme Court

ByAbraham Thomas
Sep 07, 2023 08:47 PM IST

In the present case, the SC was convinced that the apology offered by the contemnors was a “gamble” and a “calculated risk” to escape legal consequences for their alleged act of contempt

Persons who disobey orders and undertakings given to courts deserve no mercy, the Supreme Court has said in a recent ruling directing courts to be slow to accept apologies offered by such unscrupulous litigants who use it as a “potent weapon” and a “legal trick” to wriggle out of responsibility.

Supreme Court of India. (Representative Photo)
Supreme Court of India. (Representative Photo)

The apex court sounded this warning while deciding a case from the Gujarat high court which sentenced five persons under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 for breaching an oral undertaking given to the court in 2015. The HC order of July 13, 2022 sentenced three persons to undergo 2 months simple imprisonment and two others to pay 1 lakh in lieu of sentencing. A fine of 2,000 was uniformly imposed on all contemnors. Simultaneously, the HC cancelled all sale agreements made in violation of the 2015 undertaking.

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Upholding the HC order, a bench of justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said, “The sanctity to judicial proceedings is paramount to a society governed by law. Otherwise, the very edifice of democracy breaks and anarchy reigns.”

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The bench directed the contemnors to undergo the sentence as awarded by the HC and said, “The 1971 Act intends to secure confidence of the people in the administration of justice by disciplining those erring in disobeying the orders of the Court/undertaking given to court. The litigating public cannot be encouraged that such a situation can continue or the court will not rise to the occasion to book people violating its orders.”

Noting a disturbing trend of courts accepting apologies offered by persons found guilty under the Act, the bench said, “There ought not to be a tendency by courts to show compassion when disobedience of an undertaking or an order is with impunity and with total consciousness.”

The judges said that the litigants who proceeded for contempt of court realised that they have a very potent weapon in their hands in the form of apology. The Court took judicial notice of the fact that over a period of time, courts have shown “undue leniency and magnanimity” towards contemnors.

Justice Pardiwala, authoring the 83-page judgment, said, “This lenient attitude shown by the courts over a period of time has actually emboldened unscrupulous litigants to disobey or commit breach of the order passed by any court or any undertaking given to the court with impunity.”

In the present case, the four contemnors accepted that their action in selling off the property in breach of the undertaking to Court was a big mistake. “The law is very clear that the court should not get compassionate and dilute an indictment and not follow it with conviction. The fact that the appellants have committed contempt is not in doubt. The law enjoins that a punishment must follow.”

Section 12 of the 1971 Act provides for punishment for committing contempt of Court. Once convinced that the order or undertaking given to Court is breached, a simple imprisonment for a term extending up to 6 months may be awarded or fine extending up to 2,000 or both. This provision allows Court to let go a contemnor on an apology being made which is bona fide (in good faith).

The top court said, “Apology is not just a word. The court should not accept the apology when it appears that saying sorry is nothing but a legal trick to wriggle out of responsibility. In the absence of a deep ethical act of introspection, self-introspection, atonement and self-reform. any apology will be farce, the Court held.

Referring to past decisions, the ruling reiterated that no court is bound to accept as a matter of course. “Although, the apology may be unconditional, unqualified and bona fide, yet, if the conduct is serious which has caused damage to the dignity of the institution the same need not to be accepted,” the Court held.

In the present case, the Supreme Court ourt was convinced that the apology offered by the contemnors was a “gamble” and a “calculated risk” to escape legal consequences for their alleged act of contempt after pocketing a sizeable amount towards the sale consideration obtained from the purchasers.

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