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Jurisdiction Under Article 215 Can't Be Exercised To Make S. 20 of Contempt of Court Act Otiose: Madhya Pradesh High Court

Sparsh Upadhyay
30 July 2021 6:13 AM GMT
Jurisdiction Under Article 215 Cant Be Exercised To Make S. 20 of Contempt of Court Act Otiose: Madhya Pradesh High Court
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The Madhya Pradesh High Court has recently held that the Jurisdiction under Article 215 of the Constitution of India can't be exercised to make provision of Section 20 of Contempt of Court Act, 1971 otiose. The Bench of Justice Vishal Dhagat further ruled that Article 215 of the Constitution and Section 20 of Contempt of Court Act are to be construed harmoniously and only in...

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The Madhya Pradesh High Court has recently held that the Jurisdiction under Article 215 of the Constitution of India can't be exercised to make provision of Section 20 of Contempt of Court Act, 1971 otiose.

The Bench of Justice Vishal Dhagat further ruled that Article 215 of the Constitution and Section 20 of Contempt of Court Act are to be construed harmoniously and only in an exceptional or blatant case of contempt, the High Court can exercise power beyond period of one year limitation period.

Case in brief

The Petitioner before the Court had filed a contempt petition for voluntary disobedience and breach of an order dated May 11, 2017 passed in W.P.No. 3703/2017.

In that case, the Court had directed respondent/Competent Authority to decide the representation of the petitioner within a further period of two months from the date of receipt of representation along with certified copy of the order.

The petitioner had filed the contempt petition on February 16, 2021.

Court's observations

Noting that the petitioner had approached with his contempt plea after more than 3 years, whereas Section 20 of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 provides for limitation for filing contempt petitioner within 1 year, the Court said that ordinarily, it can't go beyond the mandate of Section 20 of Contempt of Court Act.

Section 20 of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 states thus:

"No court shall initiate any proceedings of contempt, either on its own motion or otherwise, after the expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed"

Article 215 of the Constitution of India states thus:

"Every High Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself"

However, this particular section does not bar jurisdiction of High Court to take cognizance of contempt, but the Court observed that it is a self-imposed restriction to exercise jurisdiction under Article 215 of the Constitution to entertain civil contempt.

"Powers under Article 215 of the Constitution of India is to be exercised keeping in view Section 20 of Contempt of Courts Act, 1971," added the Court.

Importantly, the Court noted that in exceptional circumstances only, the Court can exercise its power for initiating contempt beyond period of one year and not as a general rule.

Regarding the instant case, the Court observed that the Petitioner was unable to show any exceptional or extraordinary circumstances so that the Court could exercise its jurisdiction under Article 215 read with Section 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act to initiate proceedings even after limitation provided for filing of contempt petition case is over.

In view of this, the contempt petition filed by the petitioner was dismissed.

Case title - Mohamad Ibrahim Vs. Shri R. K. Mishra

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