The Bombay High Court recently sentenced film producer Gaurang Doshi to six months’ imprisonment after he was found guilty of wilful breach of an earlier order directing him to deposit a sum of Rs 1.25 crore in court.
Justice SJ Kathawalla observed that Doshi had repeatedly made false statements in court and has always disobeyed the directions of the court. Therefore, Doshi was held guilty of committing contempt of court and sentenced to six months’ simple imprisonment in civil court.
Producer of movies like Aankhen and Deewar, Gaurang Doshi had entered into an agreement with Scorg International Consulting Private Limited dated December 26, 2015. Under the said agreement, Scorg was to provide a finance of Rs 1 crore for Doshi’s film Aankhen 2. In January 2016, an additional amount of Rs 25 lakh was given by Scorg International to Doshi.
Under the agreement, the entire amount of Rs 1.25 crore was to be repaid by Gaurang Doshi by March 26, 2016. Since the movie was not released, the amount was not paid by the said date. Hence in April 2017, Scorg filed an arbitration petition under Section 9 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 against Gaurang Doshi Productions Pvt Ltd.
In an order dated April 20, 2017, an ad-interim order was passed by Justice GS Patel directing respondent Doshi to “make a disclosure of all their assets, both movables and immovable, encumbered and unencumbered including all bank accounts investment and securities held by each of them” by June 9, 2017.
However, no such disclosure was made and finally when the matter came up for hearing on June 20, 2017, Justice KR Shriram directed the respondents to deposit a sum of Rs 1,25,11,111 in court. This was also not done. Thereafter, a contempt petition was filed by Scorg International against Doshi for committing wilful breach of court’s order.
Doshi repeatedly failed to appear in court and finally his advocate NS Dube stated that his client had failed to comply with any of the directions and for want of instructions he would not be appearing on behalf of the respondents anymore as Doshi had not bothered to respond.
As a result, a bailable warrant was issued against Doshi, who appeared in court and promised to engage an advocate soon. Hemang Engineer appeared on behalf of Doshi in the next hearing and submitted a cheque of Rs 10 lakh with an undertaking by Doshi that the same would be honoured.
However, the cheque was not honoured as Doshi’s account was blocked. On August 30, 2018, Doshi again committed to pay Rs 1.15 crore by September 2018. Gaurang Doshi did not pay the amount, nor did he appear in court. Instead he told the court through his lawyer, that he had gone to Dubai to arrange for some funds to repay the owed sum.
Dr. Abhinav Chandrachud appeared on behalf of Scorg International and submitted that Doshi’s frequent visits to foreign countries shows that he had sufficient funds to stay abroad for long periods of time but intentionally disobeyed court orders.
The court was convinced of Doshi’s guilt but Doshi’s mother, Madhukanata was also a respondent in the matter. However, the court did not sentence her considering her old age and observed:
“I am therefore more than satisfied that Respondent Nos. 2 and 3 i.e. Mr. Gaurang Doshi and his mother – Ms. Madhukanta Vinodrai Doshi respectively have willfully breached and disobeyed the Order passed by Justice K.R. Shriram dated 20th June, 2017, as clarified by an Order dated 7th March, 2018, by not depositing the amount of Rs.1,25,11,111/- as directed by Justice K.R. Shriram in his Order.
Only since Respondent No. 3 is of very advanced age, I am accepting the unconditional apology tendered by her and imposing a fine of Rs.2000/- on her for being guilty of breaching the Order passed by this Court dated 20th June, 2017, as clarified by an Order dated 7th March, 2018, and consequently being guilty of willful contempt of this Court.”
Justice Kathawalla took a strong stand against the dangerous trend of litigants flouting court orders brazenly and said:
“A lenient sentence in this case to Shri Gaurang Doshi / Respondent No. 2 would mean and send a message that the Court is itself not outraged by the flagrant disregard shown by the Contemnors/Respondents. In such circumstances, it would further indicate that the litigants can flout provisions of the Law with impunity and still be shown mercy and forgiveness by Courts. Such a trend, in my opinion, would destroy the very principle of deterrence.”