Terming contempt jurisdiction as a 'Jurisdiction of Necessity', the Chhattisgarh High Court has observed that a contempt petition cannot be held to be not maintainable on the ground of availability of alternative remedy.
Justice Sanjay K Agrawal was considering preliminary objection raised to a contempt petition that since the execution application is maintainable under Section 36 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act for executing the award passed by the Arbitral Tribunal, therefore, the contempt petition would not be maintainable.
In this case, the high court had earlier restored the award passed by the arbitral tribunal and directed SECL to make payment of the decretal amount to Lanco Amarkantak Power Ltd. As the amount was not paid by SECL, the company had approached the high court invoking contempt jurisdiction.
Referring to various precedents, the court said: "The jurisdiction to punish for contempt is an inalienable attribute of and inheres in, every superior court of record. This is jurisdiction of necessity."
The court also observed that merely because the alternative remedy of laying execution of arbitral award is available, the contempt petition preferred for willful disobedience of the order of high court cannot be thrown out if it appears to the court that the order so passed has been willfully disobeyed by the contemnor.
Rejecting the objection, the court said: "It cannot be held that since the execution petition under Section 36 of the Act of 1996 is maintainable, this Court being the constitutional court and the court of record under Article 215 of the Constitution of India cannot look into the fact as to whether its order directing payment of decretal amount has been complied with by the contemnor or it has been willfully disobeyed by the contemnor. In my considered opinion, this Court is empowered to look into the compliance of the order of the court in order to keep the record of this court straight and it cannot be held to be not maintainable on the ground of availability of alternative remedy of laying execution petition under Section 36 of the Act of 1996."
Read the Order Here