Contempt proceedings cannot be likened to proceedings inviting interrogatories, the court observed.
The Delhi High Court has observed that notice on contempt petitions is not to be issued in a routine manner and would be justified only if the court prima facie feels that possible contempt might have been committed.
Justice C Hari Shankar was considering an application seeking initiation of civil and contempt proceedings contending that despite directions having been issued by the court to the alleged contemnors to place on record the original documents, they have complied with the said directions to a very limited extent by filing only three out of 27 documents.
Dismissing the plea, the court observed: “Issuance of notice, on a contempt petition, to the alleged contemnors, is a serious matter, as an allegation of contempt represents an affront not only to the dignity of the Court, but is also reflective of the respect of the citizen towards the orders passed by it. Notice, on contempt petitions, is not, therefore, to be issued in a routine manner and would be justified only where, on the facts alleged before it - which, in turn, must be backed by sufficient evidentiary material, which must itself inspire confidence - the Court feels, prima facie, that possible contempt might have been committed.”
Referring to various authorities and precedents, the court observed that even before issuing notice to the alleged contemnor on a contempt petition, it is the duty of the court to be satisfied that (i) there is a clear, unambiguous and unequivocal allegation in the petition that (a) the contemnor is guilty of disobeying the order of the court, and (b) such disobedience is wilful and contumacious in nature, and (ii) the factual matrix and background for the said allegation is equally clearly and unambiguously set out in the petition.
The court also said contempt proceedings cannot be likened to proceedings inviting interrogatories. “Notice, on a contempt petition, cannot blindly be issued so as to coax information out of the alleged contemnor, and to determine, on the basis of such information, whether there has been obedience with the order passed by the court or not,” the court said.