Containing contempt

Mar 13 2014, 03:22 IST
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SummaryThe Supreme Court is going hard against wilful disobedience of its orders

Ordering the arrest of Sahara group chief Subrata Roy on the grounds of contempt of court, the Supreme Court has sent out a stern message. Roy failed to appear before the apex court in his ongoing legal battle with market regulator Sebi.

The apex court issued a non-bailable warrant in a civil contempt proceeding for non-compliance of its August 31, 2012, order, asking two Sahara group firms to refund R24,000 crore illegally raised in 2008 through a convertible-bond scheme from 3 crore poor investors lacking access to formal banking.

The business tycoon was arrested on March 4 from his residence in Lucknow. Roy had issued an unconditional apology and an emotional appeal to the court to allow him to be with his ailing 92-year-old mother but the Supreme Court was not impressed.

However, Roy’s is not the only instance of the court getting tough over contempt.

Actor Rajpal Yadav was sentenced to 10 days’ imprisonment by the Delhi High Court for an offence in December last year while his wife, in view of the fact that she had to take care of a child, was awarded the punishment of having to remain in the courtroom till the rising of the judge. The couple had been avoiding appearance before the court in a recovery suit. Senior income tax commissioner Sanjay Srivastava was sentenced to 15 days of imprisonment for contempt by the Delhi High Court in January. He had allegedly continued to pass lewd and sexist remarks against his female colleagues despite the court warnings.

Though in every contempt law there is a provision for tendering an ‘apology’, the apex court, in view of its earlier judgments, feels that the unconditional apology after wilful violation of its orders will not entitle those facing contempt charges to any mercy.

This is not the first time that the apex court has taken such a strong view. The Supreme Court, in a recent case—the State of MP vs Suresh Narayan Vijayvargiya & Ors—said that “disobedience of an order of the court, which is wilful … can erode the faith and confidence reposed by the people in the judiciary and undermines rule of law. Once the court passes an order, the parties … cannot avoid implementation of that order by seeking refuge under any statutory rule and it is not open to the parties to go behind the order and truncate the effect of those orders.”

Noting that the apology route was

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