13 Nov 2009

No contempt for violation of undertaking: High Court

In a rather short and crisp decision, the Delhi High Court has recently held that there is no contempt of court if one of the parties refuses/avoids to carry out the undertaken given by it to court where a decision has been passed on that basis. 

The earlier case had been disposed off by the High Court "on the basis of written statement filed by the defendant, who in the written statement stated that it will not use the disputed label which looked similar to that of plaintiff and defendant proposed to use a different label". Soon thereafter another case was filed by the Plaintiff "alleging that the defendant was still using the earlier label. A local commissioner was appointed on application of the plaintiff who visited the manufacturing unit of defendant and seized 78 bottles, which plaintiff alleged to be deceptively similar to its trademark/label of plaintiff and handed over the same on superdari to defendant. Thereafter, plaintiff preferred a second contempt petition and in view of the report of local commissioner, it is pressed that defendant be punished under Contempt of Courts Act."

The High Court, however, was not persuaded. Considering the definition of the term 'civil contempt' under Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, the High Court observed, "It is obvious that in order to constitute a civil contempt there must be a judgment, decree, directions, order, writ given by the Court of which breach is committed or there must be an undertaking given to the Court by a person which is willfully breached." 

On these facts, the High Court declined to interfere in the contempt petition as under;
In the present case, this Court did not pass any judgment in favour of plaintiff and against defendant nor decreed the suit of plaintiff nor given any directions to defendant nor passed an order in favour of plaintiff or against defendant nor issued any writ nor an undertaking of defendant was recorded. On the basis of written statement made by defendant that defendant will discontinue the use of impugned label, the suit was disposed of. In case plaintiff found that the defendant had made false statement in the W.S. and the cause of action still survived, the only remedy available with the plaintiff was to get the suit revived and obtain an order of injunction from the Court. However, no effort was made by plaintiff for getting the suit revived and plaintiff filed the present applications for contempt. Section 9 of the Contempt of Court Act provides that nothing contained in the Act is to be construed to imply that a disobedience or breach of some act is punishable under the Contempt of Courts Act which was not be so punishable apart from the Act. Thus, all disobediences are not covered under the Contempt of Courts Act. Only those disobedience are covered under Contempt of Courts act which are specifically provided under the Act. Thus, in order to constitute a civil contempt, there must exist a judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or a process of the Court or there should be an undertaking given by the defendant to the Court. Since in this case the ingredients of Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act were lacking and no order, decree or directions existed, present applications under Contempt of Courts Act would not lie. I find no force in these applications/ petitions filed under Contempt of Courts Act.

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