Delhi HC Issues 6-Month Jail Term for Contempt of Court, Emphasizing Respect for Rule of Law

LI Network

Published on: 19 September 2023 at 12:20 IST

The Delhi High Court has sentenced an individual to six months in prison for contempt of court, emphasizing the significance of upholding the rule of law and the dignity of the judiciary.

Also Read: What Constitutes a Contempt of Court? – Law Insider India

A Bench presided over by Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav underscored the need to safeguard the rule of law, as it plays a vital role in maintaining the integrity of judicial proceedings and addressing deliberate violations. Such actions have the potential to erode public trust in the judiciary.

The Court stated, “Therefore, an unbridled interference with the administration of justice and willful disregard for judicial proceedings has to be checked on the anvil of contempt jurisprudence, lest it undermines the dignity of the judiciary in the eyes of the common man.”

The case at hand involved a contemnor found guilty of contempt for intentionally failing to fulfill commitments made to the High Court. The contemnor had promised to provide compensation of approximately Rs 13 lakh to the widow of his deceased driver, who had repeatedly sought unpaid salary and had allegedly been assaulted by the contemnor. Tragically, the driver later died by suicide. The widow had filed a petition in 2019 to enforce a 2017 compensation order issued in her favor, leading to the initiation of contempt proceedings.

The Court noted that the contemnor had not made substantial efforts to honor his payment commitments. Despite multiple assurances, he had failed to pay even a fraction of the awarded sum.

The Court remarked, “This court is of the considered opinion that the contemnor has not only wilfully disobeyed the directions passed by this court but has also wilfully disobeyed his own undertaking.”

The bench further observed that the contemnor had knowingly disregarded his own assurances, making false pledges on several occasions to the court. It emphasized that the court had considered his undertaking when releasing him from jail and that failing this commitment would have led to a different course of action.

The Court expressed that such conduct undermines the majesty of the law and the justice system. In a constitutional democracy, the rule of law must be vigorously upheld to maintain the sanctity of judicial proceedings.

The bench added, “This court is of the opinion that one cannot be allowed to trounce the majesty of law and pollute the streams of justice by brazenly engaging in contumacious conduct with an aim of hoodwinking the judicial system.

The edifice of a vibrant constitutional democracy rests on the pillars of rule of law, which needs to be preserved with full vigour to maintain the sanctity of judicial proceedings.”

The contemnor’s counsel argued for leniency, claiming a lack of means to pay and asserting no intention to defy court orders. However, the Court noted evidence suggesting the contemnor’s active involvement in the 2022 MCD elections, participation in a transport business, and ownership of property in Agra.

The Court concluded that the contemnor had demonstrated a lack of respect for the law, repeatedly evaded court appearances, and breached his commitments. Consequently, a six-month prison sentence was imposed as the maximum punishment, as the Court believed that merely imposing a fine would not suffice to preserve the court’s dignity given the circumstances of the case.

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