Friday, October 15, 2010

Unintentional disobedience is not contempt -Supreme Court

New Delhi: Accidental or unintentional disobedience of court orders does not amount to contempt, unless there is a willful attempt to obstruct the course of justice, the Supreme Court has ruled. “Accidental or unintentional disobedience is not sufficient to justify one for holding guilty of contempt,” a Bench of Justices J M Panchal and Gyan Sudha Mishra held.

“It is further relevant to bear in mind the settled law on the law of contempt that casual or accidental or unintentional acts of disobedience under the circumstances which negate any suggestion of contumacy, would amount to a contempt in theory only and does not render the contemnor liable to punishment,” court said.
The court gave the verdict while quashing the contempt proceedings initiated against Dinesh Kumar Gupta, Deputy Registrar (Judicial), Rajasthan High Court.
Gupta had moved the apex court questioning the contempt proceedings initiated against him by the Single Judge of the High Court on December 8,2006 for an alleged contempt committed by his predecessor in 2001 visa-vis an order passed by the judge on March 22, 2001.
The High Court had initiated contempt against Gupta on the ground that the order for initiating inquiry against a Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal(MACT)judge S.K. Bansal was sought to be scuttled by the registry. Upholding the appeal, Justice Sudha writing the judgment said that at the relevant period of order passed by the High Court, Gupta was not the Deputy Registrar (Judicial) as he had assumed office more than four years later.
“Besides this, it would also not be correct to overlook or ignore an important statutory ingredient of contempt of a civil nature given out u/s 2(b)of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971 that the disobedience to the order alleging contempt has to satisfy the test that it is a wilful disobedience to the order,” the apex court said.

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