Madras High Court: In a contempt petition filed against a presiding officer of a Family Court and petitioner’s wife, under Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act, (CC Act) 1971 for their deliberate act of non- compliance of Court’s order, G.K. Ilanthiraiyan, J. held that the contempt petition is not maintainable and barred by limitation. Further, the Presiding Officer of the Court cannot be impleaded as a contemnor in any event as he was not the presiding officer when the order was passed and directed the petitioner to deposit a sum of Rs. 50,000/- to the credit of Chief Justice Relief Fund of Madras High Court.
In the case at hand, the petitioner had filed a petition for divorce on the ground of cruelty and desertion. The petitioner’s wife filed an interlocutory application for maintenance, which was allowed by the trial court. Aggrieved by the same, the petitioner filed an appeal against the said order as well as a contempt petition against the presiding officer of the Family Court.
The Court said that it is nothing but clear abuse of process of court, since normally, this Court directs the trial court to complete the trial within the stipulated time. However, on the instance of the parties, the trial court could not complete the trial within the period stipulated by this Court.
The Court relied on Section 20 CC Act, 1971 and noted the limitation for actions for contempt and said that the petitioner had filed an appeal and after disposal of the said appeal in 2021 filed this contempt petition in 2022. Further, the Court has passed an order in divorce case in 2017. Thus, if at all any contempt is made out, the petitioner ought to have filed contempt petition within a period of one year from the date of receipt of the order.
The Court further said that the Registry, without noticing the date of the order, mechanically numbered the contempt petition. Further, it noted that the Presiding Officer is presiding over the Court only from 2021, whereas the order was passed by this Court in 2017. Therefore, the Presiding Officer of the Family Court cannot be impleaded as a contemnor in any event.
[G.P Bhaskar v. Sumathi, 2022 SCC OnLine Mad 5793, decided on 09-12-22]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Vedasree, Advocate, for the Petitioner;
M. Santhanaraman, Advocate, for the Respondents.
*Apoorva Goel, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.