A contemnor does not continue to reap the benefits of his disobedience by simply suffering the punishment meted out to him: Supreme Court

Case title: Amit Kumar Das Vs Shrimati Hutheesingh Tagore Charitable Trust.

Case no.: SLP (Civil) no. 34892 of 2014

Decided on: 30.01.2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice Aniruddha Bose, Hon’ble Justice Sanjay Kumar



The current appeal rests on the high court divisional bench’s contempt proceedings for the contemnor’s act, which was not only illegal and invalid but also deliberate disobedience to the stay order issued in the first appeal. The Division Bench decided that lifting the stay order from the first appeal would be more justifiable than initiating contempt proceedings.

The problem started when the respondent filed a lawsuit seeking property damage, possession recovery, and title declaration. The possession suit has a ruling from the court. The appellant then filed an appeal in the high court after the respondent filed an execution petition.

On March 3, 2010, the high court issued a stay order and told the appellant to deposit the amount of 10 lakhs within two months.


Is it correct for the court to lift the stay in order to bring forth contempt proceedings?


The appellant argued that the High Court’s exercise of contempt jurisdiction precluded it from reversing the stay order issued in the appeal. He would point out that the High Court shouldn’t have used this tactic in the contempt case and that the Trust didn’t take any action to request such relief in the appeal.


Respondent trust argued that the stay order dated 03.03.2010 in the appeal stood vacated automatically in terms of order thereof, as there was a default in the making of deposits as directed in the earlier clauses, and therefore the impugned order does not warrant interference at this stage.


The court referred to the cases of Mohammad Idris vs. Rustam Jehangir Babuji and Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) vs. Baranagore Jute Factory PLC. The courts upheld a principle in these rulings: in addition to penalising a contemnor for disobeying its commands, the Court may make sure that the contemnor does not continue to profit from his disobedience by simply receiving the punishment that has been meted out to him.

The court in this case determined that because of the particular facts of this case, the High Court’s exercise of contempt jurisdiction in vacating the stay order in the appeal did not take on a restitutive or remedial nature. Even the High Court found that the stay order’s status quo condition had been fully violated, and vacating the order had no effect on returning the parties to their pre-violation positions or denying the contemnor the benefit of the already-concluded disobedience.

It is evident that the High Court’s action exceeded the limits of its contempt jurisdiction, and it is therefore unsupportable. In that sense, the contested order is revoked. We believe it is appropriate to remand the case to the High Court so that it can continue with the exercise of contempt jurisdiction, as we have now set aside the High Court’s alternative course of action, even though the High Court refrained from doing so due to this misguided measure, even though it found the contemnor guilty of wilfully violating the status quo condition in the stay order.

“PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a National Award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal fall into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer.”


Written by – Surya Venkata Sujith


Click to read the judgement

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *