Decided on September 22,1970

Sm. Bimala Pal Respondents


P.N. Mookerjee, J. - (1.) This matter has come up before us under very exceptional circumstances. The Appellant before us was held guilty of contempt of Court by our learned brother Anil K. Sen J. by his Lordship's order dated September 11, 1970, and he was sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 500, in default, to undergo simple imprisonment for a fortnight. The fine was directed to be deposited in course of a week from date in the office of the Sheriff of this Court. Against the said order of his Lordship Anil K. Sen J. the present appeal was filed by the Appellant on September 17, 1970, and on the 18th following, which was the last day for payment of the fine, as stated hereinbefore, an application was moved before us for issue of a Rule nisi and for stay of operation of the above order until disposal of the connected appeal with a prayer for ad interim stay. That application was dealt with by us under our assigned jurisdiction on that date and we passed, inter alia, the following order on the said application: Let this application be listed for hearing before the appropriate Bench as a contested application of September 25, 1970, until which date there will be an ad interim stay of operation of the order appealed from, namely, the order of Anil K. Sen J. dated September 11, 1970. On the same day, namely September 18, 1970, the learned Advocate for the Appellant -Petitioner appears to have written a letter to the Sheriff intimating him, inter alia, of the above ad interim stay until September 25, 1970. The letter is admitted to have been received in the Sheriff's office on the same day, although according to the Sheriff's office it was received at about 4 -30 p.m. in the afternoon, the learned Advocate claiming to have delivered the same earlier. Thereafter, on Monday following, namely, September 21, 1970, the matter was mentioned before us by the learned Advocate for the Appellant -Petitioner and we were told that, in spite of the said letter of the learned Advocate, the Sheriff's office was not willing to stay its hands and the Sheriff's men were not inclined to take notice of the said letter.
(2.) Being informed, as aforesaid, we called upon the Sheriff's office to send before us an authorised representative to acquaint ourselves with the real position, and thereupon the Deputy Sheriff along with an assistant came before us, and from him we learnt that it was not the practice of the Sheriff's office to act on an Advocate's letter. We were told by the Deputy Sheriff that the Sheriff's office could act only on receipt of an official communication from this Court. As this procedure seemed to us to be somewhat strange, we directed the matter to appear before us to -day for necessary consideration and directions, and we directed the Sheriff to stay his hands in the meantime, as there can be no doubt that he had been fully and duly apprised about the interim stay order of this Court. It is true that until then no formal communication from this Court intimating the Sheriff about the interim stay order, had gone out or had been received by him, but to us that appeared to be wholly irrelevant and to make no material difference. It is settled law that the Advocate's letter, in circumstances like the present, should be taken as sufficient intimation, and only in case of a genuine doubt as to the authenticity or bona fides of the letter in question the person concerned may ask for further proof, but even then there cannot be any justification for waiting for the formal official communication in all such cases. Indeed, the practice, both in this country as also in England, wherefrom the institution of Sheriff has been borrowed by us, has been uniform that in case of prohibitory order - and the instant case was one of such type - any knowledge aliunde from a reasonable source would be enough to fix the person or officer concerned with the necessary notice of the prohibitory order. Authority for this view may be found in the century -old English case, In re Bryant, (1876) 4 Ch.D. 98, where a Solicitor's letter and a telegram were held sufficient for the purpose. Coming nearer home, it will be found that it was ruled by this Court over half a century back in Sati Nath Sikdar v/s. Ratanmani Naskar, (1911) 15 C.L.J. 335 that an Advocate's letter was enough for the purpose and the fact that it was there filed along with an affidavit of the party concerned only related to the affirmation of its genuineness for acceptance. The same view was repeated by this Court only recently in Mathura Mohan Goswami v/s. Jyotirmoy Chowdhury, (1964) 69 C.W.N. 568 under similar circumstances. In this last mentioned case, it was observed by this Court that this is a sound practice and serves the ends of justice apart from being sanctified by long tradition. In the Supreme Court too, in the case of Hoshiar Singh and Anr. v/s. Gurbachan Singh and Ors. : A.I.R. 1962 S.C. 1089 it was categorically stated that information from an Advocate, who was an officer of the Court, was enough to saddle the party or the officer concerned with responsibility. The later decision of the same Court in Bunna Prasad v/s. State of U.P. : A.I.R. 1968 S.C. 1348 does not militate against this principle but really affirms it, although in the particular facts before their Lordships, their Lordships took the view that, in the circumstances present before them, the person concerned was justified in entertaining a bona fide doubt about the genuineness of the information and would not, therefore, be guilty of contempt. Indeed, the above principle which i9 stated in Oswald's standard book or treatise on Contempt is one having the sanction of ages and sanctified by age -long application..
(3.) We would, therefore, hold that in a case like the present an Advocate's letter, unless there be something in the particular case to raise a suspicion about its genuineness, authenticity % or bona fide in the mind of the authority concerned, should be accepted as sufficient intimation of the Court's order. If this rule can be followed and followed without difficulty in the matter of orders of this Court in the Subordinate or District Courts, functioning miles away from this Court, there is no reason why there would be any difficulty in following the same by the Sheriff of this Court in respect of similar orders. Indeed, in case of a doubt, it is obviously quite easy for the Sheriff's office to get confirmation of the actual state of things from this Court. The practice, as stated hereinbefore, prevalent in this matter in the Sheriff's office, appears to us to be somewhat archaic and unsound and unsuited to good and speedy administration of justice.;

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