My photo




Sunday, March 15, 2015

whether a writ application is maintainable against an order of West Bengal Land Reforms and Tenancy Tribunal ('the Tribunal'), refusing to initiate contempt proceedings against an authority arrayed as respondent no.5 before the Tribunal.


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.7535 OF 2011

Sujitendra Nath Singh Roy                      .....Appellant


State of West Bengal & Ors.                    .....Respondents

                               J U D G M E N T


Heard learned counsel for both the parties.  This appeal has been  preferred
to assail an order dated 20th March 2009 by the High Court  at  Calcutta  in
W.P.L.R.T. No.54 of 2009.  The High Court placed reliance  upon  a  Division
Bench judgment of  that  very  Court  in  the  case  of  Manju  Banerjee  v.
Debabrata Pal reported in  (2006)  1  WBLR  (Cal)  147  and  held  the  writ
petition preferred by the appellant to be not maintainable.
The  issue  raised  in  this  appeal  is  whether  a  writ  application   is
maintainable against an order  of  West  Bengal  Land  Reforms  and  Tenancy
Tribunal  ('the  Tribunal'),  refusing  to  initiate  contempt   proceedings
against an authority arrayed as respondent no.5 before the  Tribunal.   Such
pristine question of law does not require any reference to the  facts  which
led the appellant to file O.A.No.2744 of 2007 corresponding to M.A.No.24  of
2008 before the Tribunal with a prayer  to  initiate  proceeding  under  the
Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
Learned counsel for the appellant has placed before us  the  Division  Bench
judgment of Calcutta High Court in the case of Manju  Banerjee  (supra)  and
has submitted that the view taken therein that there is no right  of  appeal
against dismissal  of  contempt  proceeding,  is  correct  and  requires  no
discussion but the further  view  that  even  in  gross  cases  of  palpable
contempt the concerned informant aggrieved by refusal to  initiate  contempt
proceeding can move  only  the  Supreme  Court  under  Article  136  of  the
Constitution  of  India,  has  been  assailed  on  the  ground   that   such
observation in the judgment is on account of  non-appreciation  of  relevant
facts in the judgment of the Constitution Bench  of  Supreme  Court  in  the
case of L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India (1997) 3 SCC 261.
On behalf of appellant, it was further submitted that judgment in  the  case
of L. Chandra Kumar (supra) was rendered on 18th March 1997.   The  relevant
Act, i.e., The West Bengal Land Reforms & Tenancy Tribunal  Act,  1997  (for
brevity referred to as the 'Act of 1997') was enacted subsequently in  terms
of the enabling provisions under Article 323B of the Constitution of  India.
 Under Section 15 of the Act of 1997 the Tribunal has been vested with  such
power to punish for its contempt as is vested in the High  Court  under  the
provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.   For  convenience,  Section
15 is set out hereinbelow :

"15. Power to punish for contempt of Tribunal.-The Tribunal shall have,  and
shall exercise, the same jurisdiction, power and  authority  in  respect  of
contempt of the Tribunal as a High Court has  and  may  exercise,  and,  for
this purpose, the provisions of the Contempt  of  Courts  Act,  1971,  shall
have effect, subject to the modifications that -

the reference therein to a High Court shall be construed as a  reference  to
the Tribunal, and

the reference therein to the Advocate-General in Section 15 of the said  Act
shall be construed as a reference to the Advocate-General of the State."

There is no caveat to the proposition of law that under Section  19  of  the
Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 an appeal lies before the  Supreme  Court  only
against such order of the High Court which imposes punishment  for  contempt
and no appeal will lie against an interlocutory order or an  order  dropping
or refusing to initiate contempt proceedings.  This was  clearly  laid  down
in the case of State of Maharashtra v. Mahboob  S.  Allibhoy  (1996)  4  SCC
411.  This view was also followed in several cases including in the case  of
Midnapore Peoples' Coop. Bank Ltd. v. Chunilal Nanda (2006) 5 SCC 399.
In the case of L. Chandra Kumar (supra) a Constitution Bench of  this  Court
declared certain clauses in Articles 323A and 323B of  the  Constitution  of
India to be unconstitutional to the extent they  excluded  the  jurisdiction
of the High Courts and the Supreme Court under  Articles  226/227and  32  of
the Constitution.  This was on the premise that power of judicial review  is
a basic and essential feature of the Constitution and, therefore, could  not
be taken away even by constitutional amendment.  Paragraphs 91,  92  and  93
of this judgment were highlighted by learned counsel for  the  appellant  in
support of his submission that all decisions of tribunals  created  pursuant
to Article 323A or Article 323B of the Constitution have  been  held  to  be
subject to the High Courts' writ jurisdiction under Article 226/227  of  the
 On the  other  hand,  learned  counsel  for  the  respondents  relied  upon
paragraph 4 in the case of  Mahboob  S.  Allibhoy  (supra)  wherein  it  was
clarified  that  no  appeal  is  maintainable  against  an  order   dropping
proceeding for contempt or refusing to initiate a  proceeding  for  contempt
in terms of Section 19 of the Contempt of Courts Act,  1971.   It  was  also
submitted that since under Section 15  of  the  Act  of  1997  the  Tribunal
enjoys same jurisdiction, power and authority as a High Court in respect  of
contempt under the provisions of the  Contempt  of  Courts  Act,  therefore,
High Court cannot exercise  power  of  judicial  review  when  the  Tribunal
exercises same powers as that  of  the  High  Court  to  reject  or  drop  a
contempt petition.
On a careful consideration of judgment of the Division Bench in the case  of
Manju Banerjee (supra) which has been followed in  the  impugned  order,  we
are unable to agree with the view that writ petition under  Article  226/227
of the Constitution  is  not  maintainable  when  the  Tribunal  refuses  to
initiate a contempt proceeding.   Such  inference  has  been  drawn  by  the
Division Bench on the basis of some judgments of this Court such as  in  the
case of D.N. Taneja v. Bhajan Lal (1988) 3  SCC  26.   In  those  cases  the
order refusing to initiate proceeding had been passed by the High Court  and
not by a tribunal and, therefore, this Court observed  that  in  a  fit  and
proper case the aggrieved person who informed the court of the  alleged  act
of contempt can  approach  the  Supreme  Court  under  Article  136  of  the
Constitution of India.  Obviously in those cases there could be no  occasion
to observe that the aggrieved person can also approach the High Court  under
Article 226/227.  The submission that because of similar powers of  contempt
vested in the Tribunal under Section 15 of the Act  of  1997,  the  Tribunal
ceases to be inferior to the High Court for exercise  of  writ  jurisdiction
is devoid of  any  substance  because  it  ignores  that  High  Courts  have
constitutional status and are vested with  extraordinary  writ  jurisdiction
whereas the  Tribunal  is  only  a  creature  of  statute.   Hence,  in  our
considered view, in the case of Manju Banjerjee (supra) the  Division  Bench
of the Calcutta High Court does not lay down the  law  correctly  that  when
the  tribunal refuses to initiate contempt proceeding, the aggrieved  person
has remedy only under Article 136 and  not  under  Article  226/227  of  the
As held by the Constitution Bench in the case of L.  Chandra  Kumar  (supra)
the power of judicial review of the High Court under Article 226/227 of  the
Constitution cannot be taken away by a  law  or  even  by  a  constitutional
amendment.  Hence, it will be indeed a rare case where the  High  Court  can
hold that a writ petition against any order of inferior  court  or  tribunal
is not maintainable.  However, we hasten to add that it is always  open  for
the High Court, in appropriate cases, to hold that a writ  petition  is  not
entertainable on account of propriety, constitutional scheme,  some  settled
rules of self-restraint or its peculiar facts.
In view of the aforesaid discussion, the impugned order  is  set  aside  and
the matter is remitted back to the  High  Court  for  considering  the  writ
petition of the appellant afresh on its own merits and as per law.  We  make
it clear that we have not applied ourselves to the  merits  of  the  matter.
The appeal is allowed to the aforesaid extent.  No costs.

                       [VIKRAMAJIT SEN]

                             [SHIVA KIRTI SINGH]

New Delhi.
March 13, 2015.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.