Delhi HC: Power to initiate Contempt of Subordinate Courts rests only with High Court


Munmun Kaur

Published On: January 20, 2022 at 13:47 IST

Recently, the Delhi High Court observed that the power to initiate Contempt of Subordinate Courts rests only with the High Court exercising jurisdiction over it.

The High Court elucidated, “In view of Sections 10 and 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, only High Courts have the power to take cognizance in respect of contempt of court”.

The observation was made by the Delhi Court while dealing with a plea filed by ICICI bank challenging the Commercial Court Order against the bank through its Chairman as to why Criminal Contempt should not be initiated against him for overreaching the process of the Court by sending a photograph of summons to the Defendant through WhatsApp.

Justice Amit Bansal hearing the matter observed that Subordinate Courts cannot assume Jurisdiction and issue show cause notice as to why the Contempt Proceedings should not be initiated. He further added that a Subordinate Court can only make a reference to the High Court for initiating Contempt Proceedings. Thus, holding the impugned Order to be clearly in excess of the jurisdiction vested with the Commercial Court.

The Bank had filed process fee and taken steps for issuance of the regular summons through the ordinary process as well as speed posts. Further, it had sent a photocopy of summons through WhatsApp too. The Bank contended that it did all of that to ensure the presence of the Defendants before the Commercial Court on the next date of hearing. It was further contended that the Supreme Court itself, during the period of COVID-19 lockdown last year, had directed service to be affected through various electronic means including WhatsApp.

The Delhi High Court held that it was not the case that Plaintiff sent the summons through WhatsApp in substitution of the ordinary service. It was sent as a secondary measure to ensure the presence of the Defendants on the next date of hearing. Therefore, there was no attempt to overreach the Judicial system and the Commercial Court went overboard in issuing the notice for initiating Contempt Proceedings.

Also read: What constitutes Contempt of Court

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