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Ordinarily weapon of Contempt cannot be used for implementation of court order, SC

The SC on May 6, 2020 {Hukum Chand Deswal v. Satish Raj Deswal} reiterated that the weapon of contempt is not to be used in abundance or misused. It was held that normally, it cannot   be   used   for   execution   of   the   decree   or implementation of an order for which alternative remedy in law is provided for. It was reiterated that discretion given to the court is to be exercised for maintenance of the court's dignity and majesty of law. Further, it was held that an aggrieved party has no right to insist that the court should exercise such jurisdiction as contempt is between a contemner and the court.

It was further reiterated by the SC Bench, comprising of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar & Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, that in order to punish a contemnor, it has to be established that disobedience of the order is “wilful”. It was held that the word   “wilful” introduces   a   mental element   and   hence, requires looking into the mind of a person/contemnor by gauging his actions, which is an indication of one's state of mind. It was held that “Wilful” means knowingly intentional, conscious, calculated   and   deliberate   with   full   knowledge   of consequences   flowing   therefrom, and it  excludes   casual, accidental, bona fide   or unintentional acts or genuine inability. Further held that wilful acts does not encompass involuntarily or negligent actions. It was held that the act has to be done with a “bad purpose   or   without   justifiable   excuse   or   stubbornly, obstinately or perversely”. Further held that wilful act is to be distinguished from an act done carelessly, thoughtlessly, heedlessly or inadvertently. It was held that it does not include any act done negligently or   involuntarily.   Further held that the   deliberate   conduct   of   a   person means that he knows what he is doing and intends to do the same. Therefore, there has to be a calculated action with   evil   motive   on   his   part.   It was held that even   if   there   is   a disobedience of an order, but such disobedience is the result of some compelling circumstances under which it was not possible for the contemnor to comply with the order, the contemnor cannot be punished.

It was held that the court exercising contempt jurisdiction is not entitled to enter into questions which have not been dealt with and decided in the judgment or order, violation of which   is   alleged   by   the applicant.  It was held that the court   has   to consider the direction issued in the judgment or order and not to consider the question as to what the judgment or order should have contained.

The   gravamen   of   the   grievance   of   the   petitioner/original plaintiff    in the present contempt petition before the SC was   that   the   respondent failed   to   file   undertaking,   as   also,   to   pay   the outstanding dues before vacating the suit premises and further, caused damage to the property before handing over possession thereof to the petitioner on 22.3.2019.  Thus, the respondent committed wilful disobedience of and violated the directions given by the Supreme Court vide order dated 22.2.2019. 

The SC held that it is not a case of intentional violation or wilful disobedience of the order passed by the Court to initiate contempt action against the respondent. Instead, it was held that it would be open to the parties to pursue their claim(s) in execution proceedings or any other proceedings, as may be permissible in law in respect of the issue(s) under consideration. It was held that in   such   proceedings, all   aspects   can   be considered   by   the   concerned   forum/Court   on   merits   in accordance with law.  

Accordingly,   the   contempt   petition   was disposed of in the above terms by the SC.   The show cause   notice(s)   issued   to   the   respondent   stood   discharged by the SC. 

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