SC frowns upon unnecessary use of Contempt of Court Act

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New Delhi, Oct 27 (UNI) The Supreme Court has strongly disapproved the use of Contempt of the Court Act for purpose other than to secure the compliance of the order of the court.

A bench comprising Justices S P Sinha and Cyriac Joseph while dropping the contempt of court proceedings against a TV programme producer company 'Three Cheers Entertainment Pvt Ltd' also imposed a cost of Rs one lakh on Calcutta Electricity Supply Company Ltd (CESE), an undertaking engaged in generation and supply of electricity in the town of Kolkata.

CESE had filed a suit for damages against the programme producer company claiming damages of Rs 25 crore for telecast of its programme on ETV Bangla in its programme called 'Khoj Khabar' for making allegations of some illigal act and malpractices being indulged in by the CESE.

A single judge of Calcutta High Court vide his order dated November 30, 2005 had passed an ex-parte order against the company directing it to handover the cassettes, materials and documents used in the programme by the contemnors.

The learned single judge of the High Court did not even wait for the findings of the court in the suit for damages while holding them guilty of contempt of court and even the division bench of the High Court did not interfere with the order of the single Judge.

The apex court pulled up the High Court and in its judgement said, ''No sufficient or cogent reason has been assigned therein. The purpose and object of initiation of a proceeding under the provisions of the said Act is only to see that the order of the court is complied with and not to unnecessarily proceed against person as if they are petty criminals.

Indisputably, the majesty of the court is required to be upheld.

The court must see that his orders are complied with. But for the said purpose the roving inquiry is not permissible.

We are pained to notice that even the director of the company who was not in town was hauled up for contempt opining that he should not have left Kolkata until the order was carried out or if he had any urgent business, he should have approached the court and asked for time to carry out the order.'' The apex court while setting aside the impugned orders dated November 30, 2005 and August 22, 2008 directed that the amount of fine deposited by the appellants should be refunded by the High Court forthwith. The cost of Rs one lakh shall be deposited by the CESE with the West Bengal State Legal Services Authority and the High Court was advised to take up the hearing of the suit as expeditiously as possible.

UNI SC PD RP HT1912

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