Contempt of Court | Husband stubbornly and obstinately refused to comply with the orders of the Court; No full disclosure of income: Read Del HC’s decision

Delhi High Court: While addressing an issue of non-compliance of Court’s order with regard to paying maintenance to wife, Division Bench of Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh, JJ., held that,

The actions/ omissions of the Respondent in choosing to show complete disregard to the orders of the Court cannot be countenanced. If such action is permitted, it will lead to anarchy and the Rule of Law would become a casualty. The orders of the Courts would be taken lightly and breached at the own sweet will of the individual concerned.

Instant contempt petition was filed under Sections 10,11 and 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 alleging contempt of order passed by the family court and another order passed by this Court.

Background

Respondent had filed a divorce petition under Section 13(1)(ia) and (ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act and the said petition was still pending adjudication.

Further, the petitioner filed an application under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 alongwith her financial affidavit seeking interim maintenance pendente lite at the rate of Rs 1,02,000 per month and a sum of Rs 1,00,000 towards litigation expenses. In addition to this, the petitioner claimed a sum of Rs 2,50,000 towards furnishing the individual household and an independent car.

The above-stated application of the petitioner was allowed.

Respondent failed to comply with family court’s direction with respect to interim maintenance, after which the petitioner preferred the present contempt case.

On being sent notice, the respondent was given two weeks’ time to file a reply to make a full and complete disclosure of his income and expenditure in the last 12 months from all sources.

Respondent was asked to be present in Court, but he made excuses for his absence.

This Court on noting the violations, found the respondent guilty of contempt, and issued show cause notice to him requiring him to show cause why he should not be punished. Hence, he was directed to file an affidavit making a complete and full disclosure of his bank accounts including those highlighted by the petitioner having not been disclosed.

Respondent submitted that he had taken a home loan for his father amounting to Rs 1 Crore and 50 lakhs in his own name and another one for a sum of Rs 1 Crore on his father’s. It was stated that the said loan amounts were entirely repaid by his father through his own personal funds and through his personal bank accounts.

The respondent has also stated that he has outstanding loan liability of Rs 8 lakhs (approx.) to be repaid to various banks and has also stated to have a balance of Rs 1,10,000/- (Rupees One Lakh and Ten Thousand only) cumulatively in all his bank accounts.

Bench took note of the stand of the respondent/his father – that he/his father were not obliged to disclose their bank accounts statements from which such large amounts of the loan – taken by the respondent, had been repaid.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench cited the Supreme Court decision in T. Sudhakar Prasad v Govt. of A.P., (2001) 1 SCC 516 wherein it was held that the powers of contempt are inherent in nature. The Supreme Court and the High Courts are courts of record and by virtue of being courts of record have inherent jurisdiction to punish for contempt of themselves, and the provisions of the Constitution Article 129 and Article 215 only recognise the said pre-existing situations. The Supreme Court has also made similar observations in Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India, (1998) 4 SCC 409 and recently in Suraz India Trust v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 833.

In the present matter, respondent stubbornly and obstinately refused to comply with the orders of the Court on a completely false premise of his financial inability, Despite the Court’s repeated orders, he failed to make a clean breast of all his accounts, incomes and expenditures.

Loan document from Citi bank, in which the respondent was shown as to be the applicant and his father to be the co-applicant, and another loan document from the Axis Bank, disclosed that the loan had been taken on the behalf of the father of the respondent.

There was no document on record to rebut the presumption that the loan was primarily taken by the respondent and therefore, he repaid the same.

“…in the past transactions disclosed by the respondent, he claims to have advanced large amounts of loans to his parents. Thus, it cannot be accepted that his father had repaid the loans taken by him from the above two banks. He has flatly refused to place on record the bank account details of himself/ his father to substantiate his plea that his father had repaid these loans from his own resources.”

Therefore, it was concluded that the respondent acquired the properties with his own funds with a view to evade his liability towards the petitioner and used the name of his father.

Respondent had chosen to give precedence to his business over the compliance with the orders passed by the family court as well as this Court.

Hence, in Court’s opinion, the respondent suppressed his true income to evade compliance with the orders requiring him to pay maintenance to the petitioner of entire arrears of maintenance.

The judiciary as an institution has garnered faith of the common masses as a trusted institution only because judicial orders are enforced, in an appropriate case, even at the pain of contempt. The faith posed by the people in the judiciary has to be protected in the interest of society, and also to meet the ends of justice.

 Contempt of Court

 If there is wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree direction, order writ or other process of a court, or wilful breach of undertaking given to the court, the contempt court shall take note of such violation, that needs to be punished. The wilful disobedience by the contemnor undermines the dignity and authority of the Courts and outrages the majesty of law.

Therefore, the Bench imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 along with simple imprisonment for a term of 3 months. [Sonali Bhatia v. Abhivansh Narang, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 5114, decided on 25-11-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner:

Ms Priya Hingorani, Senior Advocate with Mr Himanshu Yadav & Mr Anirudh Jamwal, Advs.

For the Respondent:

Respondent-in-person

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