Any case of contempt is not justified unless there is an intended Willful Disobedience to not follow the orders: Telangana High Court

A Telangana High court judgment in the case of Ganta Sudheer Kumar v. Sri T Nagi Reddy, Commissioner, Bhongir Municipality, Bhongir, Yadadri Bhongir District & others(CONTEMPT CASE NO. 1436 OF 2019) decided through the learned bench led by Justice P.Naveen Rao passed an order stating that court strike at the very root of law on which the whole judicial system rest and so it is important that all its orders are followed if not leading to contempt of court. However, such actions should not be intentional or willful unless a clear case of contumacious conduct, not explainable otherwise, arises.

Facts of the case: It was claimed by the petitioner that the respondents, had fraudulently obtained building permissions from the Municipality and henceforth started construction over the land on which the petitioner claims to be the owner It was further stated that the Municipality Commissioner, not just lacked in issuing any notice to the petitioner asking for clarification but also without verifying the documents granted the permission to build.

The court after hearing the argument of both sides passed an interim order restraining any further construction until the case is decided and also asked the commissioner to take necessary steps to ensure the same. However, it was alleged that despite the issuance of the interim order, the respondents not just completed the construction during the pandemic but also started residing on the disputed land.

The respondent’s defense was that he understood the interim order as not undertaking further construction if there is no permission but as he had valid permission he went on with the said construction.

Judgment: The Court was of the opinion that once an order is passed by the court it shall be followed in its true letter and spirit. The sanctions given by the judiciary are of at most importance to a society that is governed by law and if defied the very edifice of democracy breaks and anarchy reigns in. It was made clear that disobedience of any order of court amounts to contempt if it is calculated or tends to interfere with the administration of justice.

In words of the court” “The Contempt of Courts Act is intended to correct a person deviating the norm and trying to breach the law/ assuming law on to himself. It intends to secure confidence of the people in the administration of justice by disciplining those erring in disobeying the orders of the Court. Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 defines ‘civil contempt’ to mean wilful disobedience of any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court.”

In one of the cases the court stated “i) there must be a judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or an undertaking given to a court; (ii) there must be disobedience to such judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court (or breach of undertaking given to a court); and (iii) such disobedience of the judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or breach of undertaking must be wilful.”

It was observed that it’s the responsibility of the court to act with great caution. Steps must be taken only when a clear case of willful disobedience arises, and in such cases contemnor shall be punished. The punishment can only be issued for contempt of order if its deliberate and in disregard of one duty and in opposition to any authority.

Any contempt proceedings are quasi-criminal in nature and so the standard to give proof are same as in other criminal proceedings. The alleged contemnor is entitled to the protection of all safeguards and rights, including the benefit of doubt. And so the court came to the conclusion that as such act be the respondents were neither willful nor deliberate disobedience of the courts’ order and so the contemnors were discharged.

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