Directing a couple who defied court orders to do 100 hours of community service, the High Court of Kerala observed that obedience to court orders cannot be at the discretion of the person to whom it is directed, nor can such a person question the correctness of such orders except through legal proceedings.
MV Shaji’s property was mortgaged in bank as a security to a loan availed by one A.R.Sajan. As the latter defaulted payment, the bank initiated proceedings before DRT which culminated in auction sale of Shaji’s property. On the strength of Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) order, when the Advocate commissioner arrived at the place, Shaji and his wife, Preetha Shaji obstructed him.
The Auction purchaser, though got a police protection order from the High Court and many attempts were made by the police authorities, those were rendered futile by the vehement opposition of Shaji and his wife, who along with their supporters caused a tense and potentially volatile situation to prevail in the area so that the police authorities could not carry out their task of implementing the directions issued from this Court.
Shaji then approached the High Court challenging the auction sale of the property offered as security. On February 21, the bench of Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar set aside the auction sale on the ground that it was done beyond the period of three years from the end of financial year in which recovery certificate was issued by the Debts Recovery Tribunal(DRT). The Court also held that if the dues to the bank are paid off before March 15, the property can be redeemed. At the same time, the bench clarified that the contempt proceedings will be dealt with separately.
Pursuant to the said order, Shaji effected payments to the bank and the matter is close to settlement now.
However, while considering the contempt petition filed by the auction petitioner, the bench comprising Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar observed that the conduct of Shaji and his wife in obstructing the implementation of lawful directions issued from High court, prior to their filing the O.P (DRT), has to be deprecated. The bench held that they are guilty of Contempt of Court. The court observed:
“We might at the very outset clarify that we are not persuaded in these proceedings to believe that the majesty of this Court has in any way been affected by the actions of the 3rd and 4th respondents in defying the orders of this Court and obstructing the lawful implementation of the same. This court is not a fragile flower that will wither in the heat of such confrontation. We are concerned, however, with the message that would carry to the society at large, if such contumacious conduct of the respondents is left unpunished. The conduct of the respondents should not pave the way for others to believe that defying orders of this court is the only way to get the court to review its decisions. A lawful order can be set aside only by another lawful order passed by a court of competent jurisdiction. Obedience to lawful orders passed by a Court in our country cannot be at the discretion of the person to whom it is directed, nor can such a person question the correctness of such orders except through legal proceedings.”
As a punishment, the bench directed the couple to render 100 hours of community service each at the Palliative Care Unit at General Hospital, Ernakulam as Home Care Assistant to patients. The bench has also directed the Medical Superintendent of the General Hospital to report compliance. In case of not complying with this order, they shall forfeit the benefit of the lenient sentence granted in this judgment, and be liable to such stiffer sentence, the court added.