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Contempt Of Court | Seeking Legal Redressal Cannot Tantamount To Interference Or Obstruction To Course Of Justice: Delhi High Court

Nupur Thapliyal
22 Feb 2022 4:42 AM GMT
Contempt Of Court | Seeking Legal Redressal Cannot Tantamount To Interference Or Obstruction To Course Of Justice: Delhi High Court
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The Delhi High Court has observed that seeking legal redressal cannot tantamount to interference or obstruction to the course of justice in relation to contempt of Court. Justice Asha Menon was dealing with a suit seeking a decree of permanent injunction restraining the defendants from writing, circulating, speaking, publishing or making any demeaning remark or material against it or engaging...

The Delhi High Court has observed that seeking legal redressal cannot tantamount to interference or obstruction to the course of justice in relation to contempt of Court.

Justice Asha Menon was dealing with a suit seeking a decree of permanent injunction restraining the defendants from writing, circulating, speaking, publishing or making any demeaning remark or material against it or engaging in any conduct which causes mental pain and agony to the Plaintiff.

The suit also sought damages of Rs. 3 Crores. It also sought directions on the Defendant to withdraw the alleged ex-facie demeaning, derogatory, false and wrong allegations made against the Plaintiff in the suit.

The defendant on the other hand had submitted that the suit was not maintainable under Order VII Rule 11(d) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

The counsel appearing for the plaintiff submitted that the defendant had instituted a suit filed for perpetual injunction and declaration that the alleged Will and Testament purportedly executed by one Dr. Bhim Sen Bansal as not being genuine and that the same had been made in suspicious circumstances.

The plaintiff however claimed that his father, late Dr. B.S. Bansal had bequeathed his estate through a registered Will dated 29th December, 2017 to him. The defendant had then instituted a suit for a share in his father's estate.

It was alleged that the though the defendant was fully aware of the plaintiff having painstakingly built his reputation, he made allegedly made unacceptable, deliberately demeaning, derogatory, false, wrong and scandalous allegations in the plaint, knowing fully well that the plaint would also reach the hands of the management and employees of M/s RG Scientific Enterprises Limited and its recent investors.

It was thus the plaintiff's case that the suit was maintainable, as the plaintiff was entitled to claim damages for injury to his reputation as the right to reputation is envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

On the other hand, it was further submitted by counsel appearing for the defendant that there was no cause of action and that one of the reliefs sought was a direction to the defendant to withdraw allegedly false and wrong allegations made in suit which would result in silencing the defendant in his suit.

It was also submitted that only if the allegations were proved to be false, they could tantamount to be defamatory as the pleas taken by the defendant in his suit reflecting on the conduct of the plaintiff were ex-facie not defamatory. It was argued that to ask the defendant to withdraw those pleas would amount to contempt of court.

Rebutting the same, plaintiff argued that scandalous pleadings can be struck off by the court under Order VI Rule 16 of the CPC and therefore, the relief sought cannot be an act of contempt of court.

The Court was of the view that the powers of the court on receiving a plaint to determine whether or not to issue summons, while determining whether the suit discloses a cause of action and should be put to trial. However, it added that while doing so, the court has to consider the averments in the pleadings and the documents annexed to the plaint.

The question which thus arose in the case was whether the plaint discloses a cause of action and whether the prayers made would amount to an act in contempt of the court to be barred by law?

On the aspect of contempt of Court, the Court was of the view:

"To put it differently, every act cannot amount to contempt of court. The conduct which interferes with or prejudices a party/litigant during the pendency of the suit or proceeding would alone amount to contempt."

"Though in Pratap Singh (supra), the initiation of the disciplinary proceedings was intended to discourage the respondent/ Gurbaksh Singh from proceeding with his suit it and amounted to a threat, in the present case, the plaintiff has merely approached the court seeking redressal for damage to his reputation, the damage having been caused by the defendant making allegations against the plaintiff, namely, of being responsible for the death of their brother. Seeking legal redressal cannot tantamount to interference or obstruction to the course of justice."

The Court further observed that disparaging remarks can be expunged under Order VI Rule 16 of the CPC. It added that what can be done by the Trial Court on an application made to it can certainly not take on the character of a threat nor can it tantamount to interference with the course of justice.

"Thus, seeking such a prayer cannot render this suit barred under law thus requiring the court to reject the plaint under Order VII Rule 11(d) of the CPC," the Court said.

The Court was of the view that in the instant case, nothing prevented the plaintiff to have sought the striking out of such of the pleadings as was felt by him to be scandalous, frivolous, vexatious or prejudicial or an abuse of the process of the court, which are alleged to have been made in the plaint.

"Obviously, this suit would require a trial to determine whether the plaintiff is entitled to such a relief and clearly, serves no purpose. This is an example of deft drafting to seek a relief through multiplicity of proceedings with oblique motives that certainly has to be nipped into the bud. Exercising the powers under Order VI Rule 16 CPC, the prayer no.(c) is struck out as being an abuse of the process of the court. However, the plaintiff would be entitled to move the Trial Court in this regard, if so advised. Coming to such a conclusion, however, cannot result in the rejection of the suit as being barred by law," it said.

The Court also observed that it would be a matter of proof that the plaintiff had indeed suffered mental agony and therefore, would be entitled to seek damages from the defendant.

However, on the other issue, the Court concluded that the suit disclosed a cause of action. As the suit was found to be maintainable, the plaint was directed to be registered as a suit.

"Summons in the suit and notice in the applications be issued to the defendant by all permissible modes including through WhatsApp and email and also through the learned counsel who has appeared on behalf of the defendant in this matter. The written statement to the suit and reply to the applications be filed within thirty days from the date of receipt of summon and notice," the Court ordered.

Case Title: DR. SANJIV BANSAL v. DR. MANISH BANSAL

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 135

Click Here To Read Order 


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