13 December 2002
Supreme Court


Case number: Crl.A. No.-000441-000441 / 1993
Diary number: 82382 / 1993



CASE NO.: Appeal (crl.)  441 of 1993

PETITIONER: Bijay Kumar Mahanty

RESPONDENT: Jadu @ Ram Chandra Sahoo

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 13/12/2002

BENCH: Y.K. Sabharwal & K.G. Balakrishnan.



Y.K. Sabharwal, J.

       Police Officers are supposed to be the members of a disciplined force.  It is of utm ost importance to curb any tendency in them to flout orders of the Court.  It is more so whe n flouting of order results in deprivation of personal liberty of an individual.  If protect ors of law, to take revenge, defy court orders they will have to be sternly dealt with and a ppropriate punishment inflicted also with a view to send a message across the board that suc h an act cannot be countenanced.         The appellant is a police officer.  At the relevant time, i.e., on 13th November, 19 90, he was the officer-in-charge of the police station in question.      A police officer of  that police station had reported that the respondent had assaulted him on 30th September, 1 990 which was the immersion day of Goddess Durga while he was on duty and the respondent had  been asked by him to give side to other image (Medha) to pass.  A case was registered again st the respondent.         Now, the admitted facts.  In connection with the aforesaid case, the respondent was  arrested by the appellant on 13th November, 1990 from his residence at 7.30 a.m.  He was kep t in Police Custody and was produced before the Magistrate on 14th November.  The respondent  in respect of this very case had been granted bail by the Sessions Judge on 6th November, 1 990.  The respondent had obtained certified copy of the order of bail on 7th November.  The  respondent was produced before the Magistrate on 14th November when his advocate produced a  certified copy of the order of the Sessions Judge and, thus, he was released by the Magistra te. The only controversy is whether the respondent had produced, before the appellant, the certi fied copy of the order of bail at the time of his arrest.  According to the respondent, it w as produced.  In the proceedings of contempt that were initiated by the High Court, on recei pt of reference from the Sessions Judge, Cuttack, appellant denied that the copy of the bail  order was produced before him.  The High Court, on appreciation of evidence, held that copy  of the bail order was produced before the appellant who arrested the respondent despite it.   The appellant was held guilty of contempt and was sentenced for civil imprisonment for a p eriod of seven days.  Under these circumstances, this appeal has been filed under Section 19  of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (for short, the ’Act’).         It is of paramount public interest that the people, after obtaining an order of the  Court, should not feel helpless or without any remedy when such order is flouted. In Advocate Genera, Bihar v. M.P. Khari Industries [(1980) 3 SCC 311], this Court said that  "... It may be necessary to punish as a contempt a course of conduct, which abuses and makes  a mockery of the judicial process and which thus extends its pernicious influence beyond th e parties to the action and affects the interest of the public in the administration of just ice.  The public have an interest, an abiding and a real interest and vital stake in the eff ective and orderly administration of justice, because unless justice is so administered, the re is the peril of all rights and liberties perishing.  The Court has the duty of protecting  the interest of the public in the due administration of justice and so it is contempt of Co urt not in order to protect the dignity of the Court against ’Contempt of Court’ may seem to  suggest, but to protect and to vindicate the right of the public that the administration of  justice shall not be prevented, prejudiced, obstructed or interfered with."         The rule of law is the foundation of the democratic society.  The judiciary is the g



uardian of the rule of law.      If the orders of the court are disobeyed with impunity by t hose who owe an obligation to the society to preserve the rule of law, not only would indivi dual litigants suffer, the whole administration of justice would be brought into disrepute.         The case against the appellant was held proved by the High Court on appreciation of  evidence, perusal of the original record of the case files including the certified copy of t he bail order that had been obtained and its condition.         Mr. Mehta, learned counsel for the appellant, submits that the finding of guilt was  returned against the appellant by the High Court without production of any independent evide nce.  The finding, it is contended, is based on probabilities when the requirement of law is  that the charge of contempt shall be proved beyond any reasonable doubt.  It was also conte nded that the appellant, while forwarding the respondent to the Magistrate, had mentioned at  the end in his own hand that the respondent told him about the bail order having been passe d by the learned Sessions Judge which shows his bona fides.  The further contention is that  the belief of the appellant that the respondent had been granted bail was of no consequence  since it was his duty to arrest the respondent in connection with the case registered agains t him and he could not release the respondent merely acting on his belief.      Further, it  was submitted that the respondent did not produce the bail order before the SDO and SDPO who  had come to the police station on tension being created after the arrest of the respondent.         We have no difficulty in accepting the contention that the case against the appellan t is required to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.      The contempt proceedings under the  Act are quasi criminal.  The standard of proof required is that of criminal proceedings.  Th erefore, the charge has to be established beyond reasonable doubt (see Mrityunjoy Das & Anr.  v. Sayed Hasibur Rahaman & Ors. [(2001) 3 SCC 739].         We are, however, unable to accept the contention of the learned counsel that the cha rge against the appellant has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt.  The respondent was a rrested at 7.30 a.m. from his residence.  The only other person available at that time when  the certified copy of the bail order was shown to the appellant was the mother of the respon dent who was examined as a witness.  The appellant crushed the order.  Different persons hav e the tendency to use different language while narrating the same incident.      It is of no  consequence that the respondent at one stage stated that the bail order when produced  was  ’torn’, at another stage stated that it was ’bundled’ and with reference to that order, his  mother used the word ’rubbed’.  The said order, as already noticed, was examined by the High  Court before arriving at the finding that it bears marks of violence.  The appellant admitt ed that as per his belief the respondent had been granted bail.  If that was so, appellant w ould have given an opportunity to the respondent to produce that order  instead of arresting  him despite that belief.  The appellant wanted to arrest the respondent any way.  The case  related to an alleged assault on a Police Officer of a Police Station of which the appellant  was in-charge.  No fault can be found with the finding of the High Court that the act was a  result of revenge which prompted the appellant to act against his belief that the responden t had been granted bail and act against such a belief.  There was tension as a result of the  arrest of the respondent because he was arrested despite bail order.  There was nothing to  show that the respondent was produced before the SDO and SDPO when they visited the Police S tation.  It is nobody’s case that those officers met the respondent.  The High Court has rig htly held the appellant guilty of contempt of court.         Learned counsel for the appellant contends that apology that has now been tendered b y the appellant may be accepted.  The incident relates to the year 1990.  The respondent was  deprived of his personal liberty despite grant of bail by the Sessions Judge.  The appellan t has tendered the apology only now after lapse of nearly 12 years.      This appeal was adm itted in the year 1993.  The case has been on board for quite some time.  The apology has be en tendered only on 30th November, 2002.  The apology has to be sincere and not merely to es cape the punishment.  In our view, it is not a fit case where the apology tendered at this b elated stage ought to be accepted. Lastly, it was contended that instead of imprisonment, fine be imposed on the appellant.  In  a matter of this nature, where a Police Officer, disregarding the bail order, arrests a per son because case against him is of alleged assault on a police official, we do not think tha t mere sentence of fine would meet the ends of justice.  No interference is called for in th e judgment and order of the High Court.         The appeal is accordingly dismissed.