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Sending a summons in a picture format over WhatsApp does not amount to overreaching the judicial system: Delhi High Court

The plaintiff sent the photograph of the summon through WhatsApp, hence the Delhi High Court set aside an order that was passed by commercial court that issued a show cause notice of criminal contempt. The following order was passed by Hon’ble Justice Amit Bansal while dealing with a plea that challenged the order of commercial court in the case of ICICI BANK V. RASHMI SHARMA[CM(M) 36/2022.

In the present case, the accused person sent the photograph of the summon to the person who was summoned through WhatsApp, on this subject the commercial court initiated criminal contempt proceedings against the accused. The accused hence filed a writ petition under article 226 impugning the order dated 02.12.2021 that was passed by the district judge at Tis Hazari court for criminal proceedings for sending summons over WhatsApp and in this case the other party had not received any summon from the side of the court even after the plaintiff paying all the required fees. The commercial court on this subject held that this is nothing but “overreaching the judicial system” and said no party can start their own “parallel system”.

Delhi High Court on this matter “In the considered view of this Court, there was no occasion at all for the Commercial Court to issue show cause notice for initiating criminal contempt against the plaintiff. Just because the photograph of the summons was sent by the plaintiff to the defendant through WhatsApp cannot amount to overreaching the judicial system or running a parallel system with the judicial system. The aforesaid observations were completely uncalled for”. The Delhi High Court also gave the reasoning that especially when the plaintiff had paid the fees and taken all the steps for ensuring the summons is also sent through ordinary method such proceedings cannot take place. The court further observedThere is nothing malafide in the same and it cannot be said that that was an attempt to overreach the judicial proceedings. It was not that the plaintiff had sought to send the summons through WhatsApp in substitution of the ordinary service to the defendant” hence setting aside the commercial court order.

Further on the subject of commercial court’s jurisdiction to pass such an order the Delhi High Court observedA subordinate court can only make a reference to the High Court for initiating contempt proceedings. Therefore, the impugned order is clearly in excess of jurisdiction vested with the commercial court” so it also held that the court was not even empowered to pass such orders.

In such cases what we should see is whether the accused tried to stop the administration of justice or not, because if the accused has taken all the required steps to get the summon served and as an additional measure to get the summon served sent a photo of it via WhatsApp then how is the administration of justice being hindered. Further in line with the judgment of Dr. Prodip Kumar Biswas V. Subrata Das and Ors. the Supreme Court also observed that proceedings for criminal contempt can be initiated only when the act prejudices or interferes or tends to interfere with the course of judicial proceeding or administration of justice.

click here to read the judgment

Judgment Reviewed by Meenakshi Jena

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