In Case Of Perjury, Court Can Invoke Its Contempt Jurisdiction: Delhi HC Jails Litigant For Lying Under Oath [Read Judgment]
‘As the respondent no.2/ defendant no.2 has admittedly made false statements under oath, this Court is of the view that it strikes a blow at the rule of law and no Court can ignore such conduct which has the tendency to shake public confidence in the judicial institutions because the very structure of an ordered life is put at stake.’
All parties to a civil litigation swear before courts that they are stating only truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But if it is proved that they lied on oath, can they be punished for contempt?
On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court encountered such a question.
In a suit filed seeking permanent injunction, the defendant made certain statements before the court which was later proved to be lies by the commissioner appointed by the court. The plaintiff filed a contempt petition alleging contempt by the defendant on the face of the court.
The counsel for the defendant contended that contemnor had neither assaulted anyone in the open court nor insulted the judge in court nor had interfered with or obstructed the administration of justice in any manner and hence the present case did not fall under the ambit of contempt in the face of the court.
The high court noticed that in Dhananjay Sharma v. State of Haryana, the Supreme Court had punished a litigant for contempt and it was a case where a false affidavit had been sworn by a deponent. It also added that in a case of perjury, the court can invoke its contempt jurisdiction.
Interestingly the counsel for the defendant also told the court that his client had lied. Justice Manmohan appreciated him and said: “Before parting with the case, this Court places on record its appreciation for the truthful and honest stand taken by Mr. Nitin Mehta, learned counsel for the respondent no.2/ defendant no.2. May be, the respondent no.2/defendant no.2 was “caught with his hand in the till, yet it requires courage on the part of a counsel to admit that his client had lied. The conduct of the counsel (Mr. Nitin Mehta) is [i]n accord with the highest traditions of the Bar.”
Noticing the admission, the court observed that it is not necessary to follow the elaborate procedure of framing a charge and proceeding with a trial. The court also observed that the defendant had perjured himself by admittedly making false statements before court under oath, this court is of the view that it is entitled in law to invoke its contempt jurisdiction.
Sentencing the defendant to one-month simple imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 2,000, the court observed: “However, as the respondent no.2/ defendant no.2 has admittedly made false statements under oath, this Court is of the view that it strikes a blow at the rule of law and no Court can ignore such conduct which has the tendency to shake public confidence in the judicial institutions because the very structure of an ordered life is put at stake. It would be a great public disaster if the fountain of justice is allowed to be poisoned by anyone giving false statements and/or fabricating false evidence in a court of law. The stream of justice has to be kept clear and pure and anyone soiling its purity must be dealt with sternly so that the message percolates loud and clear that no one can be permitted to undermine the dignity of the Court and interfere with the due course of judicial proceedings or the administration of justice.”Read the Judgment Here