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Case to get court to take up its own case

If a court order has been violated, the court should take up cudgels against the offender on its own.

Based on this conviction, lawyer Amit Bhattacharya has moved a petition before Calcutta High Court asking a basic question: in a contempt case, why does the complainant have to move court, spending his own resources, when it is the court’s own order that has been violated'

Bhattacharya, in the petition, has challenged the constitutional validity of filing a contempt case by the affected petitioner after an order passed by the court in his/her favour has not been carried out.

According to high court sources, the case will come up for hearing next week.

The lawyer contended that in case of contempt proceedings, the petitioner had no role to play. “Though he is the victim of circumstances, the petitioner is not entitled to submit his view during the hearing of contempt proceedings. He can only bring to the notice of the judge that the court’s order has not been carried out,” he argued. Therefore, Bhattacharya said, there was no reason for the petitioner to spend his resources to employ a lawyer and fight the case.

Bhattacharya clarified that according to the existing rule, contempt proceedings were a matter between the bench and the person against whom allegations of violation of the court’s order were made. “So, it is not necessary for a person to file a contempt petition if the order passed by the court in his favour was not carried out. He can only mention the matter before the court concerned. It should be the court’s duty to initiate suo-motu contempt proceedings against the person who flouts the order.”

When asked to comment on the contention, eminent lawyers of Calcutta High Court felt that Bhattacharya had raised a serious question of law. Constitution law expert Sadhan Roy Chowdhury agreed with his view. “It should be the court’s duty to see that its order is carried out by the party. Why should the petitioner take the trouble and bear the expenses to file a petition when the law of the land was being violated,” he said.

Roy Chowdhury observed that there was a provision in law that empowered a judge of a court to issue a suo-motu contempt rule against an individual or any organisation. “But, generally, the court exercises this power only when the image of the judiciary is maligned,” he said.

Even that does not always hold. Citing the recent example of the contempt case against Left Front chairman Biman Bose, former secretary of High Court Bar Association Uttam Majumdar said: “In this matter, a few aggrieved persons had to come forward and seek contempt proceedings against Left Front chairman Biman Bose. The court did not issue a suo-motu contempt rule against Bose.”

Majumdar opined that the practice to launch suo-motu contempt proceedings should be encouraged in the greater interest of litigants. “This way, the disposal of pending contempt cases will also be easier,” he said.

Joymalya Bagchi, a lawyer specialising in criminal cases, admitted that the petitioner had no role to play in the hearing of contempt proceedings, other than filing the case. “These proceedings relate to only the court and the respondents.”

According to high court sources, hundreds of contempt proceedings, including those against state government bureaucrats, are pending for years. The petitioners of these cases are anxiously awaiting the hearing of Bhattacharya’s petition.

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