Legal Nation

Court’s power of contempt can’t be taken away even by legislative enactment, says SC

While observing that the Court’s power to punish for contempt cannot be taken away even by legislative enactment, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held the chairperson of a non-profit organisation (NGO) guilty of contempt of court for not depositing Rs 25 lakh fine imposed on it for filing frivolous public interest litigations (PILs) over the years without any success and “repeatedly misusing” the jurisdiction of the top court.

A Bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul while holding the NGO Suraz India Trust’s chairman Rajiv Daiya guilty of contempt of court, said, “We are of the view that the contemnor is clearly guilty of contempt of court and his action to scandalise the court cannot be countenanced.”

Earlier, Daiya told the Bench that he did not have the resources to pay the costs imposed by the top court and would approach the President of India with a mercy plea. To this, the apex court had said that there is no provision for mercy plea before the Rashtrapati Bhawan in the recovery of cost matters.

Today, the apex court, while noting that Daiya has not deposited the cost of Rs 25 lakh, directed the recovery of the amount from his assets in the manner of recovery of land revenue arrears. Stating that Daiya’s conduct was done to have his way or throw mud at the Court, administrative staff, and the state government and that apprehensive of this mud, all may back off.

The Bench, however, said, “We refuse to back off and will take it to a logical conclusion.”

The top court said that the apology submitted by Dahiya was not sincere and was only an endeavour to get out of the consequences. It said, “Apologies submitted by him are only endeavours to get out of consequences, again followed by another set of allegations, thus a charade. There’s been no remorse on part of the contemnor.”

The Bench, however, gave Daiya one more chance and posted the matter for hearing on sentence on October 7.

The apex court’s order on Wednesday came on a plea of Daiya seeking recall of the court’s May 1, 2017 judgement by which it had imposed costs of Rs 25 lakh on it for filing 64 PILs over the years without any success and “repeatedly misusing” the jurisdiction of the top court.

Earlier, the top court had issued direction to the NGO to disclose the movable and immovable assets of Daiya which was not complied with. It had also granted three days to file an unconditional apology for “scandalising and browbeating” the court.

The top court had also said such practices have to be dealt with sternly to prevent misuse of the courts by such individuals who have nothing to do but only cast “scandalous and imaginary aspersions”.

It had earlier issued contempt notice to Daiya as to why he should not be proceeded against and sentenced for his endeavour to scandalise the court.

The apex court had also barred the NGO from filing any plea before any court across the country.The top court had noted that on 64 occasions when the Suraz India Trust had approached the court, it did not get any success.