20 Aug 2022 7:57 AM GMT
The Supreme Court has held that the Central Administrative Tribunal has no power to dispense with trial before punishing for contempt committed in the face of it, if the alleged contemnor is denying the charges.The Court noted that unlike the Supreme Court, which has powers under Articles 129 and 142 of the Constitution of India, the CAT cannot punish for contempt in the face of it...
The Supreme Court has held that the Central Administrative Tribunal has no power to dispense with trial before punishing for contempt committed in the face of it, if the alleged contemnor is denying the charges.
The Court noted that unlike the Supreme Court, which has powers under Articles 129 and 142 of the Constitution of India, the CAT cannot punish for contempt in the face of it without trial.
The Court held that trial ought to be conducted in terms of Section 14(1)(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 and other relevant statues, otherwise denial of right to a trial would result in miscarriage of justice.
A Bench comprising Justices K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy passed the order in a plea filed by Advocate Mehmood Pracha assailing the order of Central Administrative Tribunal, Principal Bench at New Delhi (CAT), that had found him guilty of contempt of court under Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 for his intemperate behaviour.
Pracha was appearing before the CAT on behalf of his client, Sanjiv Kumar Chaturvadi, an Indian Forest Service Officer of Uttarakhand cadre on deputation of AIIMS, Delhi. Citing instances of unruly and contemptuous behaviour, CAT had initiated suo moto contempt proceedings against Pracha. Ultimately, the Tribunal refrained from imposing sentence and let him off with a warning. However, it directed its order to be forwarded to the Bar Council of India and the Delhi State Bar Council for disciplinary action.
Before the Tribunal, Pracha had requested for a trial to be conducted. He urged that even in a case of contempt being in the face of the Court, there was a need to conduct a trial. Per contra, ASG, Vikramjit Banerjee had argued that in view of the judgment of the Apex Court in Leila David v. State of Maharashtra & Ors. (2009) 10 SCC 337 trial may not be necessary.
The Bench perused Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act and also Section 17 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 and the Rules thereunder, which provide jurisdiction to the Tribunals to initiate contempt proceedings. It was noted that the charges framed by the Tribunal were denied by Pracha. But, no trial was conducted, even though he specially requested one. Referring to Section 14(1)(c), the Bench observed that the contempt proceedings included 'taking of evidence as may be necessary' to ascertain the substance of the charges framed. Again, Rule 13 (e) of the Central Administrative Tribunal Rules contemplates that if the accused pleads not guilty their case may be taken up for trial on the very same day or subsequently as directed by the tribunal. As per Rule 15, the procedure for trial for contempt would be the procedure stipulated for summary trial under the CrPC. It also provides for examination of Tribunal witness.
The Bench did not find ASG's reliance on Leila David (supra) to be relevant to the facts of the present case. It noted that therein the contempt was committed before the Apex Court; even after lodging of the contempt case there were subsequent contemptuous acts, which clearly revealed there was no change in demeanour of the contemnor in that case. More importantly, as the contempt was before the Apex Court, it could exercise power under Article 129 and 142 to hold the contemnor guilty. It was emphasised upon that such power was not available with the Tribunal. Accordingly, the Bench held -
"We would think that in the facts of this case, denial of a right of trial which is contemplated also under Section 14(1)(c) of the Act as also Rule 15 of the Rules has resulted in miscarriage of justice", the Bench ruled while setting aside the CAT order.
Case Name: Mehmood Pracha v. Central Administrative Tribunal
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 692
Case No. and Date: SLP(C) No. 4960 of 2021 | 16 Aug 2022
Corum: Justices K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy
Central Administrative Tribunal - Punishment for contempt imposed on Advocate for alleged intemperate behaviour in court- SC sets aside CAT order as no trial was conducted - We would think that in the facts of this case, denial of a right of trial which is contemplated also under Section 14(1)(c) of the Act as also Rule 15 of the Rules has resulted in miscarriage of justice - Para 26
Contempt of Courts Act, 1971; Section 14 - Procedure where contempt is in the face of the Supreme Court or a High Court - contemplates opportunity is provided to contemnor to make his defence - evidence to be taken as may be necessary (Para 10)
Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985- Section 17 - Power of CAT to punish for contempt - Central Administrative Tribunal Rules 13 & 15 - CAT cannot punish for contempt committed in the face of it without trial when the alleged contemnor denies charges - Procedure under Section 14(1)(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act to be followed- CAT has no power of the Supreme Court under Articles 129 and 142 of the Constitution of India - Distinguished Leila David v. State of Maharashtra & Ors. (2009) 10 SCC 337 -Paras 14, 15 & 24
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