Advocate Rajnish R. Singla
In order to discuss, legal binding / judicial discipline and Contempt of Court a reality. It will be imperative to go through the Constitution of India.
The relevant provisions of The Constitution of India are as follows –
Article 141– Law declared by Supreme court to be binding on all courts– The law declared by Supreme court to be binding on all courts within the territory of India.
“It is impermissible for the High Court to overrule the decision of the Apex Court on the ground that Supreme Court laid down the legal position without considering any other point. It is not only a matter of discipline for the High Courts in India, it is mandate of the Constitution as provided in article 141 that the law declared by the supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India”, Suganthi Suresh Kumar v/s. Jagdeeshan, (2002) 2 SCC 420
“The judicial discipline to abide by Supreme Court decision cannot be forsaken under any pretext by any authority or court, be it even High Court”, State of Himachal Predesh v/s Paras Ram, AIR 2008 SC 930.
Article 226 – Power of High Courts to issue certain writs
(1) Notwithstanding anything in Article 32 every High Court shall have powers, throughout the territories in relation to which it exercise jurisdiction, to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases, any Government, within those territories directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibitions, quo warranto and certiorari, or any of them, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III and for any other purpose
(2) The power conferred by clause (1) to issue directions, orders or writs to any Government, authority or person may also be exercised by any High Court exercising jurisdiction in relation to the territories within which the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises for the exercise of such power, notwithstanding that the seat of such Government or authority or the residence of such person is not within those territories
(3) Where any party against whom an interim order, whether by way of injunction or stay or in any other manner, is made on, or in any proceedings relating to, a petition under clause (1), without
(a) furnishing to such party copies of such petition and all documents in support of the plea for such interim order; and
(b) giving such party an opportunity of being heard, makes an application to the High Court for the vacation of such order and furnishes a copy of such application to the party in whose favour such order has been made or the counsel of such party, the High Court shall dispose of the application within a period of two weeks from the date on which it is received or from the date on which the copy of such application is so furnished, whichever is later, or where the High Court is closed on the last day of that period, before the expiry of the next day afterwards on which the High Court is open; and if the application is not so disposed of, the interim order shall, on the expiry of that period, or, as the case may be, the expiry of the aid next day, stand vacated
(4) The power conferred on a High Court by this article shall not be in derogation of the power conferred on the Supreme court by clause ( 2 ) of Article 32
“The law declared by the High Court is binding on all subordinate courts within the State;” East India Commercial Co. v. Collector of Customs, AIR 1962 SC 1893:
Legal maxim of natural justice is Res judicata pro veritate accipitur which means the decision of a court of justice is assumed to be correct; a thing adjudicated is received as true. A judicial decision is conclusive evidence inter parties of the matter decided.
“In disposing of the quasi-judicial issues before revenue officers, they are bound by the decision of the appellate authorities. The order of the appellate Collector is binding on the Assistant Collectors working within his jurisdiction and the order of the Tribunal is binding upon the Assistant Collectors and the Appellate Collectors who function under the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. Further, the principles of judicial discipline require that the orders of the higher appellate authorities should be followed unreservedly by the subordinate authorities. The mere fact that the order of the appellate authority is not ‘’acceptable’’ to the department-in itself an objectionable phrase-and is the subject-matter of an appeal can furnish no ground for not following it unless its operation has been suspended by a competent Court. If this healthy rule is not followed, the result will only be undue harassment to assessee and chaos in administration of tax laws.” UOI v/s. Kamlakshi Finance Corporation Ltd. (1991) 55ELT 433(SC-3J)
“The principles of the judicial discipline require that the order of the higher appellate Authority should be followed unreservedly by the subordinate authority and it cannot be disregarded simply because the said appellate order is subject matter of appeal which is pending.” Aay Sons Elastomerics India and others v. State of UP and others 1995(29) ATJ-561
“Special appeal to Supreme Court has been filed against the judgment of this court declaring the provisions of Section 8-A(4) ultra vires. This, in our opinion, is no ground for not giving effect to the declaration of law by this Court. As long as the judgment of this Court remains undisturbed, the Sales Tax Officer is bound to give effect to this declaration of law, and he cannot take over behind filing of appeal in order to relieve himself of his obligation to do so.” Metal Containers (P) Ltd. v/s. State of U.P. and another 1979STJ168
Article 129- Supreme Court to be court of record – The Supreme Court Shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.
Article 215- High Courts to be courts of record – Every High Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power or punish for contempt of itself.
Contempt of court means civil contempt or criminal contempt.
“Civil contempt means willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction , order, process of a court or willful breach of an undertaking given to a court .
“Criminal contempt ” means the publication (whether by words spoken or written or by sings or by visible representations , or otherwise ) of any matter or the doing of any other act , what so over which –
(i)- scandilises or tends to scandalise , or lowers or tends to lowers or tends to lower the authority of any Court; or
(ii) prejudices, or interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding ; or
(iii) interfere or tends to interfere with, or obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.
“Contempt of Court is disobedience to the Court, by acting in opposition to the authority, justice and dignity thereof. It signifies a willful disregard or disobedience of Court’s order; it also signifies such conduct as tends to bring the authority of the Court and the administration of the law into disrepute.” B. Mishra V. B Dixit, AIR 1972 SC 2466, 2468.
“Under the common law definition, “contempt of Court’ is defined as an act or omission calculated to interfere with the due administration of justice. This covers criminal contempt (that is acts which so threaten the administration of justice that they require punishment) and civil contempt ( disobedience of an order made in a civil cause).” Vinay Chandra Mishra, In re, (1995) 2 SCC 584.
Famous Legal maxim of natural justice is Dura lex sed led; “the law is hard but it is the law”.
Consistency is the corner stone of the administration of justice. It is consistency which creates confidence in the system and this consistency can never be achieved without respect to the rule of finality. It is with a view to achieve consistency in judicial pronouncements, the courts have evolved the rule of precedents, principle of stare decisic etc. these rules and principles are based on public policy and if these are not followed by courts then there will be chaos in the administration of justice; Government of Andhra Pradesh v/s A. P. Jaiswal, AIR 2001 SC 499: (2001) 1 SCC 748:
“It is trite that what cannot be done directly, cannot be done indirectly.” Sangram Singh P Gaekwad v/s Santadevi P Gaekwad (2005) 57 SCL. 476 (SC) ,
From the perusal of above provisions and judicial decisions it is clear that The law declared by Supreme court to be binding on all courts within the territory of India. The law declared by the High Court is binding on all subordinate courts within the State; and The L aw declared by Tribunal is binding on all subordinate courts and authorities.
In case anybody defies the authority or dignity of a court than The Supreme Court and The High Courts have the power to punish for contempt.
May be, The Commercial Tax Department of The State of Uttarakhand is not aware of The Honorble Supreme Court’s decision in L. Mahurkar v/s The Bar Council of Maharashtra. 101 STC 541; The Uttarakhand High Court’s decision in Commissioner Commercial Tax Uttarakhand , Dehradun V/s Jalpac India Ltd. Mota Haldu, Haldwani (2009) 10VLJ 37 (Utt). The Uttarakhand High Court’s decision in Gitanjali Associates V/S State of Uttarakhand and others. (2011) 16 VLJ 209 (Utt) and The Commercial Tax Tribunal, Uttarakhand (Haldwani Bench’s) Decision in Appeal No.23 / 2013 A. Y. 2012-13 M/s Bee Key Distributors Pvt. Ltd. Transport Nagar Haldwani v/s The Commissioner Commercial Tax Uttarakhand Dehradun.