The Supreme Court in Vilas V. Sanghai vs. Sumermal Mishrimal Bafna & Anr., has set aside a High Court order in a contempt proceedings against a police officer on a limited ground that, since the criminal contempt was of a subordinate Court, the High Court could have taken action only on a reference made to it by the subordinate Court or on a Motion made by the Advocate General and not in pursuance of an application submitted by any other person, that too without obtaining consent of Advocate General.
A person had moved High Court against the police officer, who arrested him a day before the hearing in anticipatory bail application filed by him, allegedly breaching the assurance given by him to the court. The high court had found the police officer guilty of committing contempt of court and, sentenced to simple imprisonment for seven days with a fine of ₹2,000.
The crux of argument before the apex court was that the provisions of Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act had not been complied with before passing the order punishing him for committing criminal contempt of court.
Referring to Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, the Bench comprising Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice L. Nageswara Rao observed: “The alleged criminal contempt was of a subordinate court and therefore, the action could have been taken on a reference made to the High Court by the subordinate court or on a Motion made by the Advocate General, but the proceedings had been initiated in pursuance of an application submitted by Respondent No.1. From the record, we do not find that the learned Advocate General had ever given his consent for initiation of the said proceedings.”
It is pertinent to mention here that in S. K. Sarkar vs. Vinay Chandra Misra AIR 1981 SC 723, the apex court had held thus: “If the High Court acts on information derived from its own sources, such as on a perusal of the records of a subordinate court or on reading a report in a newspaper or hearing a public speech, without there being any reference from the subordinate court or the Advocate-General, it can be said to have taken cognisance on its own motion. But if the High Court is directly moved by a petition by a private person feeling aggrieved, not being the Advocate-General, can the High Court refuse to entertain the same on the ground that it has been made without the consent in writing of the Advocate-General? It appears to us that the High Court, has, in such a situation, a discretion to refuse to entertain the petition, or to take cognisance on its own motion on the basis of the information supplied to it in that petition.”
Read the Judgment here.