Abuse of the process of the Court

In Dhananjay Sharma vs. State of Haryana, (1995) 3 SCC 757, it was said that (Para 40 of AIR) :

“The stream of justice has to be kept clear and pure and anyone soiling its purity must be dealt with sternly so that the message percolates loud and clear that no one can be permitted to undermine the dignity of the Court and interfere with the due course of judical proceedings or the administration of justice.”

Abuse of the process of the Court

While we are conscious that every abuse of the process of the Court may not necessarily amount to Contempt of Court abuse of the process of the Court calculated to hamper the due course of a Judicial proceeding or the orderly administration of justice we must say, is a Contempt of Court. It may be that certain minor abuses of the process of the court may be suitably dealt with as between the parties, by striking out pleadings under the provisions of Order 6, Rule 16 or in some other manner. But, on the other hand, 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 the parties to the action and affects the interest of the public in the administration of justice. The public have an interest, an abiding and a real interest, and a vital stake in the effective and orderly administration of justice, because, unless justice is so administered, there 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 entrusted with the power to commit for Contempt of Court, not in order to protect the dignity of the Court against insult or injury as the expression “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. “It is a mode of vindicating the majesty of law, in its active manifestation against obstruction and outrage”. per Frank Furter, J. in Offutt v. U. S. (1954) 348 US 11.

“The law should not be seen to sit by limply, while those who defy it go free, and those who seek its protection lose hope”. per Judge, Curtis-Raleigh quoted in Jennison v. Baker (1972) 1 All ER 997 at page No. 1006.

In Halsbury’s Laws of England, (4th Edn., Vol. 9, paragraph 38), there is a brief discussion of when abuse of the process of the Court may be a punishable contempt. It is said:

“38. Abuse of process in general. The Court has power to punish as contempt any misuse of the court’s process. Thus the forging or altering of court documents and other deceits of like kind are punishable as serious contempts. Similarly, deceiving the court or the court’s officers by deliberately suppressing a fact, or giving false facts, may be a punishable contempt.

Certain acts of a lesser nature may also constitute an abuse of process as, for instance, initiating or carrying on proceedings which are wanting in bona fides or which are frivolous, vexatious, or oppressive. In such cases the court has extensive alternative powers to prevent an abuse of its process by striking out or staying proceedings or by prohibiting the taking of further proceedings without leave. Where the court, by exercising its statutory powers, its powers under rules of court, or its inherent jurisdiction, can give an adequate remedy, it will not in general punish the abuse as a contempt of court. On the other hand, where an irregularity or misuse of process amounts to an offence against justice, extending its influence beyond the parties to the action, it may be punished as a contempt.”

Filing of an application may amount to an abuse of process

It is not sufficient for the respondent to set up the order of the Subordinate Judge, Tadepalligudem as a shield. A judicial proceeding which is otherwise permissible may become an engine of fraud. Thus in Advocate General, State of Bihar vs. Madhya Pradesh Khair Industries Ltd., (1980) 2 SCR 1172 (1175) it was held that the filing of an application may amount to an abuse of process. In that case, the respondents obtained interim orders from a single Judge which had the effect of circumventing and nullifying the effect of the orders of the Division Bench of that High Court. This Court said, “The Court must take into account the whole course of the continuing contumacious conduct of the respondents from the beginning of the ‘game.’ It was concluded that the conduct of the respondents clearly showed that they were intending to and had obstructed the due course of the administrative of justice by abusing the process of Court.[Bank of India Vs Vijay Transport and others-AIR 2000 SCW 4624 : (2001) CriLJ SC 732 : (2000) 6 SCALE 734 : (2000) 8 SCC 512 : (2000) 3 Suppl. SCR 685]

“In the present case, the respondents began ‘the game’ by filing an application under Article 226 of the Constitution in the Calcutta High Court, whereas in the normal course one would expect such an application to be filed in the Patna High Court within whose jurisdiction the subject matter of the dispute was situate. For some mysterious reason which nobody has been able to explain to us, the writ application was filed in the Calcutta High Court. A justifiable prima facie inference from this circumstance may be that the application was not bona fide but intended to harass and oppress the opposite parties. We do not want to say anything more about this aspect of the case as we are told that this is a failing of the respondents which they shared with several others. Perhaps, as we had occasion to remark during the course of the hearing, some parties are unable to reconcile themselves to the fact that the Calcutta High Court has long since ceased to have jurisdiction over the area comprising the State of Bihar which it had several decades ago”.[AIR 1980 SC 946 : (1980) 2 SCR 1172 : (1980) 3 SCC 311 : (1980) CriLJ SC 684]

Interference with the administration of justice

In Chandra Shashi v. Anil Kumar Verma (1995) 1 SCC 421 , the respondents produced a false and fabricated certificate to defeat the claim of the respondent for transfer of a case. This action was found to be an act amounting to interference with the administration of justice. Brother Hansaria, J. speaking for the Bench observed:

“the stream of administration of justice has to remain unpolluted so that purity of Court’s atmosphere may give vitaility to all the organs of the State. Polluters of judicial firmament are, therefore, required to be well taken care of to maintain the sublimity of Court’s environment; so also to enable it to administer justice fairly and to the satisfaction of all concerned. Anyone who takes recourse to fraud deflects the course of judicial proceeding; or if anything is done with oblique motive, the same interferes with the administration of justice. Such persons are required to be properly dealt with, not only to punish them for the wrong done, but also to deter others from indulging in similar acts which shake the faith of people in the system of administration of justice.”

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