Madras High Court: The Division Bench of P.N. Prakash and R. Pongiappan, JJ., addressed a contempt petition filed under Section 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act.
Petitioner aged 87 years old was blessed with 5 children. He was in service when his children were young and was allotted a plot by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board, wherein he built a two-storeyed house. After his retirement, he started living peacefully with his wife and 4th son viz. Laxmi Rajah on the first floor. Apart from this he also owned a few more properties in and around Chennai.
After the death of his wife, petitioners’ children started demanding their shares in the properties and two of his sons Vijay and Suraj took possession of the ground floor and after a year started giving him trouble.
Due to the fear of being dispossessed from the house, a settlement deed in favour of the 4th son was executed.
On being infuriated with the above stated, the 4th son’s wife assaulted the petitioner and the other three daughter-in-law lodged a police complaint against the petitioner based on which an enquiry was conducted and the case as closeld as the same was a ‘civil dispute’.
The disgruntled sons gave a complaint of cheating and fraudulent transaction against their father. Again, the same was closed as “family quarrel”.
Vijay and Suraj filed a suit before the VII Additional City Civil Court for partition alleging that their father the petitioner did not have any means to purchase the Anna Nagar house property and it was bought with the funds of their grandfather and hence, they have a share in it.
The above mentioned two sons also assaulted their father, after which the petitioner sought protection under the Tamil Nadu Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.
Police filed an FIR against the two sons for the offences under Sections 294(b), 352 and 506(I) Penal Code, 1860 and Section 24 of the Tamil Nadu Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.
Two sons pleaded to Murthi at Metropolitan Magistrate’s house to withdraw the complaint and they will vacate the premises and show the bonafide they filed a written memo of undertaking before the Metropolitan Magistrate.
Reason for filing the present petition
After earning freedom, the two sons turned turtle, reneged from their undertaking and refused to vacate the premises and therefore, Murthi/ Petitioner was before this Court with the instant contempt petition.
Analysis, Law and Decision
Whether the undertaking given by Vijay and Suraj before the Metropolitan Magistrate was under coercion when they were in police custody or they gave it voluntarily?
Bench noted that when Vijay and Suraj’s counsel submitted before the Court that if some more time would be granted, they would vacate the house, the duo refused to toe their counsel’s line as well. Mainly they stuck on to the issue that their father did not give any share to them in his property.
Order passed by the V MM stated that the advocate for the accused pleaded to the V MM not to remand the accused and only thereafter, Murthi came into the picture, resulting in the duo filing a memo of undertaking to vacate the house, followed by Murthi filing a memo accepting the undertaking given by his sons.
Court expressed that the accused were represented by an advocate at the time of remand, and he would not have been so guile to make his clients file a memo of undertaking had the V MM been disinclined to remand them in judicial custody.
In view of the above, it is limpid that the alleged contemnors had filed an undertaking into the Court, which they had no intention of honouring, and had successfully extricated themselves from remand proceedings and their contention that the undertaking was given by them under coercion defies credulity.
Power of High Court to punish for Contempt of Courts subordinate to it, is recognized in Section 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act and it is well settled that a wilful breach of an undertaking given to the Court would constitute civil contempt.
Therefore, the subsequent act of deliberately reneging from the terms of the undertaking by the alleged contemnors constitutes a serious interference in the administration of justice, and the respondents were held to be guilty of Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
The contempt petition was allowed.[P.S. Murthi v. P.S. Vijay, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 2052, decided on 04-06-2021]
Advocates before the Court:
For petitioner: Mr. T. Arun Kumar for M/s. Tamizh Law Firm
For respondents: Mr. V. Krishnamoorthy