Show restraint while invoking contempt provisions, says High Court - ECAS Punjab

Show restraint while invoking contempt provisions, says High Court

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Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 28

In a significant judgment liable to change the way contempt proceedings are initiated by the lower judiciary, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that due caution and judicial restraint are required to be exercised while invoking the penal provisions.

The assertion came as Justice Arun Monga rapped a judicial magistrate, first class, for making observations that “flew in the face of the record” in a case where a contempt notice was issued to a Punjab-cadre IPS officer against the provisions of law.

“The penal provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act have to be invoked with due circumspection, judicial restraint and sparingly. Their undue and indiscriminate use, particularly against public officers in connection with their official work, tends to unnecessarily embarrass, humiliate and demoralise them, thereby adversely affecting the discharge of their public functions without enhancing the dignity, respect and image of the courts,” Justice Monga asserted.

The matter was brought to Justice Monga’s notice after IPS officer Nilambari Vijay Jagadale, through counsel Gautam Dutt, sought the setting aside of the magistrate’s order holding that she had committed civil contempt. Jagadale was asked to personally look into a case where supplementary challan was not presented despite eight years of FIR registration. But nothing happened.

The magistrate referred the matter to the High Court for action for violation of his orders. Jagadale is currently posted as AIG, cyber crime-cum-director, Digital Investigation Training and Analysis Centre and State Crime Records Bureau of the Punjab Police.

Justice Monga asserted the magistrate observed contrary to record that reply to the contempt petition was by the investigating officer, who was not facing contempt and was not even competent to file the reply.

Justice Monga added the magistrate was not justified in commenting adversely against the petitioner’s conduct for not personally appearing and not filing separate reply in individual capacity as the impugned order did not reveal any such direction.

Referring to a High Court order, Justice Monga asserted it showed implicit satisfaction with explanation for delay in supplementary challan. Judicial discipline and propriety required the magistrate to give due weightage and respect to the High Court’s view. But he ignored it by making observations contrary to the record.

Setting aside the order, Justice Monga added even if significant part of delay was assumed to be attributable to the investigating officer, it would not be more than an administrative/superintendence lapse on petitioner’s part and she could not have been hauled up for contempt.

from The Tribune

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