Hearing appeals, Division Benches can’t stay contempt proceedings before Single Judge: Punjab and Haryana High Court : The Tribune India

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Hearing appeals, Division Benches can’t stay contempt proceedings before Single Judge: Punjab and Haryana High Court

The ruling is unique as it is common for Division Benches to critique orders issued by Single Benches

Hearing appeals, Division Benches can’t stay contempt proceedings before Single Judge: Punjab and Haryana High Court

Photo for representational purpose only. iStock



Tribune News Service

Saurabh Malik

Chandigarh, May 16

Emphasising the importance of maintaining independence and authority of courts hearing contempt matters, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that Division Benches typically have the power to hear appeals over Single Bench orders and correct any mistakes made. But the Division Benches, while hearing appeals, do not have the authority to interfere with contempt proceedings before a Single Judge.

Justice Rajbir Sehrawat ruled that Division Bench orders, staying proceedings before the courts hearing contempt of court matters, if issued, were deemed non-existent. The ruling is unique as it is common for the Division Benches to critique orders issued by Single Benches. But a Single Judge virtually expressing dissent toward orders issued by Division Benches is out of the ordinary.

The ruling came after Justice Sehrawat’s Bench was told that a Division Bench ordered “the contempt court shall not proceed with the matter”, while issuing notice of motion on a letters patent appeal (LPA) against a writ court order.

Justice Sehrawat asserted the court as a matter of judicial comity would have even followed the order, had the direction to stay contempt proceedings in an appeal against the writ court order been a stray incident in a single case. But parties in different cases had been repeatedly producing such or similar orders passed by different Division Benches, resulting in increasing unnecessary pendency of contempt petitions. As such, it became imperative for the court to dilate upon the issue.

Justice Sehrawat asserted the provisions of the Constitution of India and a Supreme Court ruling made it clear that a Single Bench was not subordinate to a Division Bench in intra-court appeals. As such, a Division Bench could not even remand to the Single Bench the case in which it was hearing an appeal.

Justice Sehrawat asserted the Division Bench’s limited power was to correct mistake, if any, committed by the Single Bench and pass its own judgment to decide the matter. It did not have the authority to pass sundry orders in the matters or the aspects which were not even under challenge before it by “arrogating to itself the roving and omnipresent authority and jurisdictions”.

Justice Sehrawat added the contempt court did not draw its jurisdiction and powers to consider and decide a contempt petition from any authorization or concession conferred upon it by any Division Bench. The contempt court by itself had the authority and powers in accordance with the Contempt of Courts Act and “more widely” under the provisions of the Constitution.

 “The Division Bench hardly has any jurisdiction to pass an order while hearing LPA against the order of a writ court that the contempt Court shall not proceed with the matter. Hence, such an order, if passed, has to be treated as non-est,” Justice Sehrawat ruled.

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