Husband punished for contempt of court due to non-compliance of the Settlement condition

 IN THE HIGH COURT OF PUNJAB AND HARYANA AT
                                  CHANDIGARH


                                                     COCP No.359 of 2014

                                                     Date of Decision :25.3.2014

                   Court on its own Motion
                                                                       ....Petitioner
                                   Versus

                   Rohin Kumar @ Rohin Aggarwal
                                                                       ...Respondent

                   CORAM : HON'BLE MR.JUSTICE MAHESH GROVER
                                      ....

Present: Respondent-Contemner Rohin Kumar @ Rohin Aggarwal with counsel Mr. Amit Aggarwal, Advocate. Mr. Tarun Vaid, Advocate for Mr. K.D.S.Hooda, Advocate for the wife.

…..

MAHESH GROVER.J.

The respondent-husband Rohin Kumar @ Rohin Aggarwal, who was embroiled in a matrimonial dispute with her wife Silvia, entered into a settlement dated 12.11.2012, broadly the terms of which are extracted herebelow :

“(i) That the respondent shall agree to the grant of the decree of divorce in favour of the deponent.

(ii) That the said amount of Rs.17 lacs would be the full and final settlement of all the claims of the respondent qua the appellant. She shall not make any other/further claim qua the respondent or his heirs, assignees, representatives.

(iii) That the custody of the son (D.O.B.12.8.2005) of the deponent and the respondent would remain with the deponent and he shall have complete responsibility of  looking after the child and his needs/up-bringing. The respondent shall not ever claim his custody or any right over their son in future.

The respondent would have the right to visit their seven years old son, who is in the custody of the deponent since he was eleven months old at a place like the Woman Welfare Cell/Legal Authorities Cell, Ambala, once a month.

(iv) That the respondent would take steps for the quashing of the FIR No.120 dated 22.3.2006 under Section 498-A, 406 IPC, registered at P.S.Sector 5, Panchkula against the deponent and his family members.

(v) That the respondent shall withdraw the complaint filed by her under Section 12 of the Protection of Woman from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 pending before the Ld.J.M.I.C., Panchkula.

(vi) That the respondent shall withdraw her petition/appeal under Section 125 Cr.P.C. pending before the Ld.A.D.J., Panchkula.

(vii) That the respondent withdraw her complaint against the deponent under Section 494 Cr.P.C. pending before the J.M.I.C., Panchkula.

(viii)That FIR No.53 dated 1.2.2012 under Section 66(1) I.T.Act, 2000 and Section 292 IPC registered against the respondent by the father of the deponent shall also not be pursued and steps shall be taken to have it quashed/cancelled.

(ix) That both the deponent and the respondent would agree that none of them shall pursue any complaint which has been moved against each other in any shape in view of the settlement.

(x) That part payment of Rs.5 lacs of the amount of Rs.17 lacs shall be made immediately on receiving the earnest money in respect to the sale of the plot and the rest of the amount shall be paid on completion of all formalities of the same.”

Barely few weeks thereafter the contemner-husband furnished an affidavit where he did not dispute the settlement and his intention to honour it, but pleaded that he had no personal means to pay the amount to the wife and that he had entered into an understanding with his mother to sell a commercial plot measuring 29-1/2 square yards located at Manav Chowk, Ambala City to satisfy the settlement. In the affidavit he categorically undertook to pay Rs.17 lacs to the wife. For the purpose of reference the relevant part of the affidavit is extracted herebelow :

“The said plot has been put up for sale and the deponent undertakes to pay the amount of Rs.17 lacs to the respondent on receipt of the same and on acceptance of the terms and conditions discussed namely……..”

The affidavit then went on to extract the terms of the settlement which have been noticed above.

Thereafter the respondent defaulted in his commitment made to the Court and to the wife. It is not in dispute that the plot in question was sold but the proceeds thereof were utilized for another purpose of the family i.e. marriage of the sister of the respondent-contemner.

The solitary explanation offered by the contemner for not honouring the undertaking given to this Court is that intervening circumstances have rendered him incapable of abiding by the terms of the settlement and his own undertaking.

I have considered this explanation offered by the contemner and do not find it to be reliable and worthy of acceptance, since it is sans any justification. The contemner pleads that he has no means to pay off the wife. This fact was evidently known to him when he entered into the settlement followed with an affidavit where he reiterated the settlement on the basis of an undertaking and also demonstrated the means to generate the resources. After selling the plot the proceeds were utilized not for the purpose of satisfying the commitment made to the wife and to the Court but for other purposes.

Evidently, if the conduct of the contemner is seen sequentially, then it reflects his clear intention to obstruct the course of justice. He first entered into a settlement on 12.11.2012 followed up by an undertaking barely 2-3 weeks thereafter and then defaulted altogether. If the contemner had knowledge about his nonexistent means, then it is not understandable as to why he committed himself to a settlement which evidently he could not honour. Ostensibly he knew that his parents would support him, which they did indeed by selling of the plot, but the proceeds were utilised elsewhere. Implicit in the entire conduct of the contemner is a clear attempt to mislead the Court, obstruct the course of justice and subvert the legitimate process of law to defeat the rights of the wife flowing from the settlement and undertaking given to this Court.

Undertakings given by a party and affidavits filed in Court are sacrosanct and have to be respected. They have a deep reflection on the  solemnity of proceedings in law. If courts were to condone conduct of breach in undertakings then it will lead to erosion in the majesty of law which courts can ill afford.

In Vidya Charan Shukla v.Tamil Nadu Olympic Association and another A.I.R. 1991 Madres 323, a Full Bench of the Madras High Court observed as follows :-

“27. Thus this court’s special jurisdiction as well as inherent jurisdiction to make orders ex debito justitiae on the one hand and to punish for its contempt on the other, cannot be doubted and if a jurisdiction exists in a court, the court always has the right and duty to exercise that power as effectively as possible as it is always a inherent jurisdiction of the court to make its power effective even though there is no specific provision of law to cover that particular power.

28. Article 215 of the Constitution has made no distinction between a civil contempt or a criminal contempt and covers the whole field or litigation, civil or criminal and anything that tends to curtail or impair the freedom of the limbs of the judicial proceedings. The courts in their attempt to identify the nature of contempt have noticed however three different sorts of contempt viz., (1) scandalizing the court itself. (2) abusing parties who are concerned in causes before it and (3) prejudicing mankind against persons before the case is heard.

We need not however, wander into this arena as the Parliament has enacted the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 and defined “contempt of Court” to mean civil contempt or criminal contempt, ‘civil contempt’ to mean willful disobedience to any  judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or willful breach of an undertaking given to a court” and, … “criminal contempt” to mean the publication, whether by words, spoken or written or by single or by visible representations, or otherwise of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which scandalizes or tends to scandalize or lowers or tends to lower the authority of any Court or prejudice or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceedings or interferes or tends to interfere with or obstructs or tends to obstruct the administration of justice in any other manner. The present appeal is concerned with the civil contempt only although it is conceded before us that there are several allegations in the contempt application, which make out a case of criminal contempt. Civil contempt is thus essentially concerned with the enforcement of judgment, decree, direction,order, writ or other process of a Court. The administration of justice can only be effective if it has the means to enforce the court’s judgment and orders. That is why civil contempts are also called contempt in procedure. Courts also do not easily resort to the contempt procedure. Contempt is a blunt weapon. It is used sparingly and only in cases where when it is found difficult to generate obedience and respect for the court or when a court attempts to secure obedience to its orders, directions, etc.or to elicit respect to it. It rarely does any such thing to grandiose its Officers on the man power including the judges. It does so, first to undo the wrong done and secondly to ensure that the administration of justice is not  brought into a scorn of ridicule because there is no interest of the court, which is not public interest. If violations of the Court’s order will be ignored, there will be nothing left save for each person to take the law into his own hands. Loss of respect for the Courts will ultimately result in the destruction of the rule of law and ultimately the society. Still courts before seeking enforcement of their order, want to be satisfied first to whom the order, writ or direction was addressed, whether to whom the order was addressed knew about the court’s order or not and whether such a person had willfully disobeyed the order of the court or not.”

The Court thus holds the contemner guilty of contempt of Court. Since the contemner is present in Court he has been given an opportunity to state on the quantum of sentence, but he offered no comment on it.

Upon evaluating the entire circumstances, I hereby sentence the contemner to six months’ simple imprisonment along with costs of Rs.1 lac, which shall be compensatory in nature to the wife within two months.

Heard. Request for suspension of sentence is declined. The officials of the police, who have been called, are directed to set their hands on the contemner forthwith and take him in custody to be imprisoned for the period referred to above.

The petition stands disposed of.

Copy of the order be given to the contemner/counsel of the contemner free of costs.

                   25.3.2014                                           (MAHESH GROVER)
                   dss                                                     JUDGE
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