DILIP MITRA Vs. SWADESH CHANDRA BHADRA
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
SWADESH CHANDRA BHADRA
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(1.)In a writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution, an order was passed in civil order no. 11478-W/1985, in the matter of Sri Dinabandu Dey v. State of West bengal and Ors. The High Court made an order to the effect of directing the consideration of the cases of the petitioners therein, in terms of the National Volunteers force Act and the rules framed therein, to be employed on rotational basis and to the effect that their services shall not be disturbed except on terms as directed in the statute and they shall be absorbed as and when permanent vacancies arise. On the basis that this order had not been implemented or given effect to, proceedings in contempt were initiated in civil rule no. 9744-W/1989 and the High Court ultimately concluded that the contempt application has become infructuous in view of certain orders passed by the government, the rule stood discharged and the connected applications also stood dismissed. Thereafter, one more application was filed under the Contempt of Courts Act in civil rule no. 6577-W/1991. By an order made on 8/7/1993, the High Court held that the appellants were guilty of contempt for not complying with the order referred to by us earlier but, however, gave an opportunity to the respondents to purge the contempt by directing them to absorb the petitioners therein in regular establishment of the national volunteer force within four weeks from the communication of that order without requiring the petitioners therein to appear for any test in view of the long period of continuous and satisfactory service as trained national volunteers. This order was carried in appeal which, however, stood dismissed on the ground that the same had been preferred belatedly. This appeal has been filed against that order. In the normal course, we would have set aside the order made by the High Court and remitted the matter to the High Court on the appellate side for fresh consideration but considering the long passage of time, we think it appropriate to consider the main matter itself on merits.
(2.)The delay that was sought to be explained is 49 days. The reasons explained were that after obtaining a copy of the order from the court, they approached the government pleader and sent the same to the government and some administrative delay took place in referring the matter back to the government pleader for preferring the appeal. Considering the overall circumstances, we think the delay that has occurred cannot be stated to be so gross as not to be condoned at all. Particularly, when institutions are involved, the courts should show some latitude in the matter of condoning the delay. In that view of the matter, the High Court was not justified in having dismissed the same on the sole ground of delay in preferring the appeal.
(3.)On the ground that the order made by the High Court on the writ side is not complied with, a complaint was filed in contempt jurisdiction. Unless there is wilful disobedience to the order made by the court, it is very difficult to conceive of the situation where the High Court could hold a party to be guilty of contempt. In the present case, the order made by the learned single judge in respect of which the complaint was made is that the authorities will have to act in terms of the statute and rules in regard to employment on rotational basis and their continuance and absorption. That is the substance of the order dated 20/7/1988. Whether the statute and rules have been complied with or not, whether the concerned complainants fulfilled the necessary qualifications as prescribed in the statute or rules or not are all matters in respect of which there could be a serious dispute. In such matters, it could not be clearly stated that the concerned parties had acted wilfully in contempt of the court. In that view of the matter, we think the High Court is not justified in holding that the appellants were guilty of contempt. Further, the High court could have given certain clarifications in regard to the implementation of the order made by the High Court on writ side after giving due opportunity to all concerned, if the High Court felt that the order in the writ application was not properly interpreted or understood by the concerned authorities. But, it could not have said, without reference to the relevant rules and factual details that the appellants should purge the contempt by absorbing the petitioners in regular establishment without insisting on any test in view of their long and satisfactory service.
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