While fully, firmly and finally deprecating most strongly the most reprehensible practice of bringing “every wrong order” that is passed by the Trial Courts under the contempt jurisdiction, it is most assuaging to learn that none other than the Madhya Pradesh High Court itself has in a most laudable, learned, landmark and latest judgment titled Majid Beg and Ors vs Shri Tej Pratap Singh in Contempt Petition Civil No. 1987 of 2022 pronounced as recently as on September 20, 2022 observed sternly that trying to threaten judges with contempt pleas will not be accepted. It must be noted that while very strongly pulling up four litigants for making ‘reckless allegations’ against a Trial Court Judge, a Division Bench comprising of none other than the Hon’ble Mr Chief Justice Ravi Malimath himself and Hon’ble Mr Justice Vishal Mishra observed without mincing any words in simple, straightforward and suave language that, “…We deprecate such attitude. We do not appreciate that every wrong order passed by the Trial Court is to be brought under contempt and the concerned judge has to be proceeded against trying to threaten the judges with petitions for contempt, in our considered view, is not going to be accepted.” Absolutely right!
More to the point : If Judges cannot function smoothly, then even God cannot save our country for it is Judges who determine God’s fate. As for instance when a woman lawyer named KL Chitra filed a PIL in Supreme Court for action to create a High Court Bench in West UP, the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi had very clearly said that we are no one to rule on this and it is only for the Centre to act in this regard. While adding a rider, the then CJI Gogoi said that he fully sympathized with the contentions that the people of so many districts of West UP are made to travel so far about 700 to 750 km on average all the way not even to Lucknow which is 200 km earlier but right till Allahabad to get justice. KL Chitra abided by that judgment instead of beating her chest and complaining and accusing Judge of being biased which really deserves to be applauded as inspite of losing the case as her PIL was dismissed yet she took it in correct spirit that judiciary whether it is UP Chief Justice or UP Chief Minister or Chief Justice of India is no one to rule on this and it is Centre and Centre alone which has to take the final call on it!
Anyway, coming back to the key issue, it must be noted at the outset itself that this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Hon’ble Mr Chief Justice Ravi Malimath for a Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising of himself and Hon’ble Mr Justice Vishal Mishra sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “This petition is filed seeking initiation of proceedings for contempt against the respondent herein for willfully disobeying the order dated 9th July, 2022 passed in Miscellaneous Criminal Case No.27507 of 2022.”
To put things in perspective, the Division Bench then envisages in para 2 of this learned judgment that, “Shri Vishal Vincent Rajendra Daniel, learned counsel for the petitioners contends that the respondent has violated the aforesaid order. He submits that the order passed by this Court in paragraph-9 has been disobeyed. He submits that even though the impugned order therein dated 10.05.2022 was set aside, the trial judge is proceeding to recall the witnesses and record their evidence. It is his submission even though he brought it to the notice of the trial judge, he was told that there was no order to restrain him not to summon the witnesses. Therefore, in view of the fact that there is no specific order restraining him not to summon the witnesses, there is no disobedience of the aforesaid order. Therefore, it is pleaded that since the contempt has been committed in disobeying the directions contained in paragraph-9, appropriate action be taken against the respondent.”
While mentioning about the core issue itself, the Division Bench after hearing the petitioners counsel as mentioned in para 3 then enunciates in para 4 of this remarkable judgment that, “Paragraph-9 of the order, which is said to have been disobeyed by the respondent reads as follows:-
“9. Therefore, in view of the above, present petition is allowed. Order dated 10.05.2022, passed by the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Seoni is set aside and learned Chief Judicial Magistrate is directed to decide the matter afresh after granting an opportunity of hearing to the petitioners/accused and to raise all such objections as are available to them, in accordance with law. Criminal case is pending for more than 9 years. Therefore, learned CJM is expected to dispose of this case as early as possible preferably within a period of six months from the date of receipt of copy of this order.””
Furthermore, the Division Bench then specifies in para 5 of this robust judgment that, “It is the further plea that the trial judge has stated that there was no order passed by the High Court directing him not to recall any of the witnesses. What was ordered by the High Court was to decide the matter afresh after giving an opportunity of hearing to the petitioners/accused etc. Therefore, what is being done by the trial judge is in accordance with the directions especially given in paragraph-9. Hence, there is no contempt.”
Most forthrightly, the Division Bench then mandates in para 6 of this pragmatic judgment that, “On considering the contentions, we are of the considered view that no contempt would arise in this matter. There is no specific order directing the trial court not to summon the witnesses or anything of the like nature. This Court after setting aside the order dated 10.05.2022 which is an order under Section 311 of the Cr.P.C., directed the CJM to decide the matter afresh after granting opportunity. ‘Afresh’ necessarily means from the beginning. Opportunity has already been granted. Therefore, we do not find any willful disobedience as pleaded by the petitioners. Hence, the petition is liable to be dismissed on this ground itself.”
Most remarkably and also most significantly, the Division Bench then encapsulates in para 7 what constitutes the cornerstone of this notable judgment that, “So far as the contentions being advanced are concerned, we do not appreciate the same. Apparently, the plea of the petitioners is that in spite of the order of the Court, the trial judge has disobeyed the same. We have hereinabove held that the same does not amount to contempt. Every order that is passed by a superior court, is liable to be followed by the lower court. Even assuming the case of the petitioners is to be accepted of certain misapplication of the law, that does not amount to contempt. The understanding of the trial court is quite a different issue than disobedience. One has to show that the disobedience is willful to the orders passed by the superior courts. If there is any scope for any interpretation in the directions being issued then that cannot constitute a contempt. In the instant case, the impugned order therein was set aside with a direction to consider the matter afresh. Therefore, the trial court has to consider the matter afresh. As to how that amounts to contempt, we are unable to follow. Therefore, we are of the view that this is nothing but a pure adventurism by the petitioners in making such reckless allegations against the trial judge. We deprecate such attitude. We do not appreciate that every wrong order passed by the trial court is to be brought under contempt and the concerned judge has to be proceeded against. Trying to threaten the judges with petitions for contempt, in our considered view, is not going to be accepted. Since this matter is arising for the first occasion we have restrained ourselves from taking strict action but only direct a warning to the petitioners to desist from such adventurism.”
Finally, the Division Bench then as a corollary finds no hesitation in coming to the palpable conclusion as directed in para 8 of this progressive judgment that, “Petition is accordingly dismissed.”
In a nutshell, what inevitable conclusion that can be drawn from this most powerful, pragmatic and progressive judgment is that the Madhya Pradesh High Court has minced just no words to make it indubitably clear that any attempt to threaten Judges with contempt plea is totally unacceptable. There is absolutely no bona fide reason why any citizen of India should dare to differ even marginally with what the Division Bench comprising of none other than the Hon’ble Mr Chief Justice Ravi Malimath himself and Hon’ble Mr Justice Vishal Mishra have dwelt upon so succinctly and so convincingly that there remains no valid reason not to agree in totality with what they have held so commendably!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate