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contempt of court =in this suo motu proceeding, the High Court has not made out a case to punish all the appellants under “criminal contempt” in terms of Section 2 (c) read with Section 12 of the Act. =A Committee was constituted by some local persons, who were active in public life, along with lawyers at Jalpaiguri named “Circuit Bench `O’ Sarbik Unnayan Dabi Adyay Samannya Committee, Jalpaiguri” (hereinafter referred to as “the Committee”). The Committee had passed a resolution for the formation of a High Court Circuit Bench at Jalpaiguri and in order to achieve the said purpose to stage Satyagrah in front of the District Court at Jalpaiguri. The Members of the Committee put theirresolution into action on 15.12.2006 and started agitation outside the main gate of the District Court premises and put up a rostrum there on which a number of 2

Jalpaiguri district, West Bengal, India

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 REPORTABLE

 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

 CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

 CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 339 OF 2007

Anup Bhushan Vohra .... Appellant(s)

 Versus

The Registrar General, 

High Court of Judicature at Calcutta .... Respondent(s)

 WITH

 CRIMINAL APPEAL NOs. 340, 345, 346, 358, 362,

 388, 390, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 

 399 and 400 of 2007

 J U D G M E N T 

P. Sathasivam, J.

1) These appeals, under Section 19 of the Contempt of 

Courts Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act"), are filed 

against the common judgment and order dated 02.03.2007 

 1

passed by the Division Bench of the High Court of Judicature 

at Calcutta in Suo Moto Contempt Motion being Crl.C.P.No.1 

of 2007 with C.R.R. No. 187 of 2007 whereby the High Court 

found all the appellants guilty of criminal contempt and 

sentenced them to undergo simple imprisonment for a term of 

six months with a fine of Rs.2,000/- each and, in default of 

payment of fine within a period of one month, to further 

undergo simple imprisonment for one month. 

2) Brief facts: 

a) A Committee was constituted by some local persons, who 

were active in public life, along with lawyers at Jalpaiguri 

named "Circuit Bench `O' Sarbik Unnayan Dabi Adyay 

Samannya Committee, Jalpaiguri" (hereinafter referred to as 

"the Committee"). The Committee had passed a resolution for 

the formation of a High Court Circuit Bench at Jalpaiguri and 

in order to achieve the said purpose to stage Satyagrah in 

front of the District Court at Jalpaiguri. The Members of the 

Committee put their resolution into action on 15.12.2006 and 

started agitation outside the main gate of the District Court 

premises and put up a rostrum there on which a number of 

 2

persons started sitting in Satyagrah. They prevented the 

Judicial Officers including the District Judge, Jalpaiguri to 

enter into the Court premises from that day. In order to 

overcome the said situation, the District Judge drew attention 

of such fact to the Inspector-in-Charge, Kotwali Police Station, 

Jalpaiguri for extending police help, but no action was taken. 

Subsequently, the District Judge brought the matter to the 

notice of the Registrar General of the High Court of Calcutta 

for taking necessary steps.

b) After taking note of the situation, Hon'ble Mr. Justice V. 

S. Sirpurkar, the then Chief Justice of the High Court, 

instructed the District Judge through the Registrar General to 

seek necessary help and protection from the Superintendent of 

Police, Jalpaiguri to take immediate steps so that the Judicial 

Officers could enter the Court premises and attend the judicial 

work. The District Judge conveyed the said decision of the 

High Court to the Superintendent of Police, Jalpaiguri but 

failed to get any response from him. Subsequently, he 

approached the District Magistrate but no action was taken 

from his end also. Failing to get any response either from the 

 3

Superintendent of Police or the District Magistrate, Jalpaiguri, 

the District Judge sent a note to the then Chief Justice of the 

Calcutta High Court who gave direction over phone to the 

Director General of Police to take effective steps without any 

further delay. The Director General of Police gave assurance 

that he would take up the matter with the Home Secretary, 

Government of West Bengal and also suggested the Registrar 

General to inform the District Judge to write to the District 

Magistrate, Jalpaiguri to take steps for ensuring proper 

functioning of the Court with a copy to the Superintendent of 

Police, Jalpaiguri. On 12.01.2007, the District Judge again 

wrote to the District Magistrate. In spite of that, no effective 

development had taken place and the Judicial Officers and the 

District Judge were unable to enter the court building. 

c) In view of the above situation, the District Judge sent a 

Fax message to the Registrar General of the High Court 

requesting him to take appropriate instructions and 

directions. On the basis of the said information, on 

15.01.2007, the then Acting Chief Justice of the High Court 

sitting in a Bench issued two Suo Motu Rules of Contempt, 

 4

one, against the 16 persons actively associated with the 

aforesaid Committee to show cause as to why they are creating 

impediments in functioning of the judiciary in the District 

Court by obstructing Judicial Officers from entering into the 

Court premises and the other upon the Director General of 

Police, Government of West Bengal, the District Magistrate, 

Jalpaiguri, the Superintendent of Police, Jalpaiguri and the 

Inspector-in-charge, Kotwali Police Station, Jalpaiguri to show 

cause as to why they remained silent spectators in spite of 

repeated directions. 

d) On the same day, the Committee withdrew the Satyagrah 

and removed the rostrum and cleared the entry gate. In 

response to the Rules, the appellants herein filed their 

affidavits before the High Court. After examining the 

appellants herein, the High Court, by impugned judgment 

dated 02.03.2007, imposed simple imprisonment for a term of 

six months with a fine of Rs.2,000/- each and in default of 

payment of fine within a period of one month, to further 

undergo imprisonment for one month. Aggrieved by the order 

 5

of the High Court, the appellants/contemnors have filed these 

appeals under Section 19 of the Act. 

3) Heard M/s Mukul Rohtagi, Kalyan Bandopadhyay, R. 

Venkataramani, learned senior counsel, P.C. Sen, Tara 

Chandra Sharma, learned counsel for the appellants and Mr. 

Pradip Kr. Ghosh and Mr. Jaideep Gupta, learned senior 

counsel for the respondent-High Court.

4) Since we are going to dispose of all the 18 appeals by this 

judgment, the following details pertaining to these appeals are 

relevant:

S.No. Name Age Profession Case Number 

 (Crl. Appeal)

1. Sri Mukulesh Sanyal (Dead) 84 Editor of a No. 395/2007

 local weekly

2. Sri Chitta Dey 84 Trade No. 390/2007

 Unionist

3. Sri Benoy Kanta Bhowmic 83 Advocate No. 394/2007

4. Sri Samarendra Prosad 78 Business No. 396/2007

 Biswas

5. Smt. Pratima Bagchi (Dead) 74 Teacher No. 399/2007

 (Retd.)

6. Sri Jiten Das 73 Ex.M.P. No. 362/2007

 (Retd. 

 Professor)

7. Sri Sadhan Bose 73 Business No. 398/2007

8. Sri Amal Roy 64 Political No. 392/2007

 Worker 

9. Sri Debaprasad Roy 63 M.L.A. No. 358/2007

10. Sri Anup Bhushan Vohra 63 DGP, W.B. No. 339/2007

 (D.G.) (Retd.) 

11. Sri Prasanta Chandra 58 Dy. S.P., No. 346/2007

 (Inspector-in-Charge) Murshidabad 

 6

12. Sri Subhas Kumar Dutta 57 Teacher No. 393/2007

13. Sri Rabindra Narayan 57 Business No. 400/2007

 Chowdhury 

14. Sri Somnath Pal 46 Business No. 388/2007

15. Sri Sanjoy Chakraborty 44 Secretary of No. 397/2007

 an NGO 

16. Sri Prabal Raha 40 Social No. 391/2007

 worker 

17. Sri Tripurari (S.P.) 39 D.C. Central No. 345/2007

18. Sri R. Ranjit 38 D.M., No. 340/2007

 Jalpaiguri, 

 W.B. 

5) Since all the appellants were proceeded for criminal 

contempt under the Act, it is useful to refer the relevant 

provisions applicable for disposal of these appeals. Section 2 

(c) of the Act defines "criminal contempt" which reads as 

under:

 "2.(c) "criminal contempt" means the publication (whether by 

 words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible 

 representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of 

 any other act whatsoever which-

 (i) scandalizes or tends to scandalize, or lowers or tends to 

 lower the authority of, any court; or 

 (ii) prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due 

 course of any judicial proceeding; or 

 (iii) interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends 

 to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other 

 manner;"

Section 12 of the Act provides punishment for contempt of 

court. The procedure to be followed has been dealt with in the 

Calcutta High Court Contempt of Courts Rules, 1975. It is 

 7

settled law that the law of contempt must be strictly 

interpreted and complied with before any person can be 

committed for contempt. 

6) In Muthu Karuppan vs. Parithi Ilamvazhuthi & Anr., 

AIR 2011 SC 1645 = (2011) 5 SCC 496, this Court, while 

considering the criminal contempt held that the court should 

be satisfied that there is a reasonable foundation for the 

charge and further held that the punishment cannot be 

imposed on mere probabilities and the court can not punish 

the alleged contemnor without any foundation merely on 

conjectures and surmises. How the criminal contempt has to 

be proceeded with has been explained in para 9, which reads 

as follows:

 "9. The contempt proceedings being quasi-criminal in 

 nature, burden and standard of proof is the same as 

 required in criminal cases. The charges have to be framed as 

 per the statutory rules framed for the purpose and proved 

 beyond reasonable doubt keeping in mind that the alleged 

 contemnor is entitled to the benefit of doubt. Law does not 

 permit imposing any punishment in contempt proceedings 

 on mere probabilities, equally, the court cannot punish the 

 alleged contemnor without any foundation merely on 

 conjectures and surmises. As observed above, the contempt 

 proceeding being quasi-criminal in nature require strict 

 adherence to the procedure prescribed under the rules 

 applicable in such proceedings."

 8

In para 23, it was further held that any deviation from the 

prescribed Rules should not be accepted or condoned lightly 

and must be deemed to be fatal to the proceedings taken to 

initiate action for contempt.

7) With this background, let us analyse whether the 

appellants have committed criminal contempt in terms of 

Section 2(c) of the Act and whether the High Court is justified 

in imposing simple imprisonment for a term of six months 

with a fine of Rs. 2,000/- each and, in default, to further 

undergo simple imprisonment for one month.

8) The impugned order of the Division Bench shows that 

these appellants were punished for criminal contempt not only 

on the ground that they prevented the Judicial Officers 

including the District Judge and other staff members from 

entering into the District Court at Jalpaiguri, but also on the 

ground of alleged serious lapses/inaction on their part. It is 

useful to refer the findings recorded by the Division Bench 

regarding the role and part played by the appellants which are 

as under:- 

 "We, therefore, unhesitantly come to the conclusion 

 that the Director-General of the Police, the District 

 9

Magistrate of the District, the District Superintendent of the 

Police and the Inspector-in-charge of the local Police Station 

have committed not only the Criminal Contempt of the 

Judges Court in the District of Jalpaiguri by deliberately 

taking no action against the agitators resulting in 

interference with due Administration of Justice in the said 

District and at the same time the Director-General of Police 

has in addition to that also committed further contempt of 

this Court by disobeying the order of the then Chief Justice 

to take immediate step for restoration of the function of 

Judiciary in the said District.

 We disbelieve the statements of the three Officers of 

the District Administration that the learned District Judge 

never sought for Police assistance and on the other hand, 

supported the agitators. In his affidavit, the District 

Magistrate was constrained to admit that at least on 

January 10, 2007 the learned District Judge-in-Charge in 

writing asked for his assistance but in spite of such fact, he 

did not find any time to take appropriate step till January 

15, 2007, the day on which we issued the Rules and directed 

the Chief Secretary to take appropriate step for restoration of 

the functions of Judiciary in the District. Moreover, the fact 

that a G.D. was lodged complaining obstruction to the entry 

of the employees of the Court was sufficient for taking action 

to see the Judiciary could function in the District in 

accordance with the Constitution of India and further 

request for Police help at the instance of the learned District 

Judge was unnecessary. The justification sought to be given 

that the agitation was peaceful was insignificant in the fact 

of the present case in view of the fact that the question of 

"breach of peace" arises if there is a resistance at the 

instance of an opposition group. The Judges are not 

expected to wrestle with those agitators by taking the law in 

their own hands of the purpose of entering the Court 

premises. They complied with the law of the land by drawing 

attention of the local Police by lodging a G.D. through an 

employee of the Court and at the same time, it has been well 

established from the materials on record that the local 

administration was quite alive to the situation that due to 

the purported "Satyagraha" by staging agitation and raising 

a rostrum at the main entrance gate of the Court premises, 

there was interference with due Administration of Justice 

and in such circumstances, it was the duty of the local 

administration to take step of their own once they found 

commission of a cognizable offence." 

 1

9) As stated in the earlier paras, a Committee constituted of 

some local persons, who were active in public life, along with 

the lawyers at Jalpaiguri, had passed certain resolutions to 

stage Satyagrah for the formation of High Court Circuit Bench 

in front of the District Court at Jalpaiguri. As a follow-up 

action, the Members of the Committee put their resolution into 

action on 15.12.2006 outside one of the two gates of the 

District Court premises that is the main gate and put up a 

rostrum there on which a number of persons started sitting in 

Satyagrah. 

10) It is the stand of the police that on being aware of the 

said resolution of the Committee, on 15.12.2006, a police 

picket consisting of three officers and four constables was 

deployed under Sub-inspector Dilip Kumar Sen at the place of 

Satyagrah to watch and monitor the law and order situation. 

It was pointed out that the Sub-inspector Dilip Kumar Sen 

noted the above details in the General Diary (GD) of Kotwali 

P.S., under GDE No. 899 dated 15.12.2006 recording that the 

Judicial Officers and the staff of the District Court had arrived 

at the court premises, but they were persuaded by the 

 1

members of the Committee not to enter into the Court. The 

officer has also recorded that the Judicial Officers did not ask 

the police for help to enter into the court. Mr. Rohtagi, learned 

senior counsel appearing for the appellant- Anup Bhushan 

Vohra, former Director General of Police in Criminal Appeal 

No. 339 of 2007 has brought to our notice a true extract of GD 

entry made on 15.12.2006 under GDE No. 899 which reads as 

under:-

 "It is important to add here that each of the Judges and 

 Magistrates (total of 11) of the said District Court are 

 provided with one armed policemen and two other security 

 guards as normal security to enable them to fulfill the duties 

 of their office: i.e. the Judges and Magistrates of the District 

 Court always had 27 security guards including 9 armed 

 guards."

The further information relates to GD entry made on 

19.12.2006 under GDE No. 1152, in which the S.I. detailed for 

duty at the District Court recorded that with force he was 

present at the main gate of the court premises and at 1050 

hrs. when some of the Judicial Officers had arrived at the 

main gate of the District Court, they were requested "with 

folded hands" by the agitating Members of the Committee not 

to enter into the court. The Judicial Officers, thereafter, 

returned back. The S.I. and his force were standing at the 

 1

spot, but there was no order/request by the Judicial Officers 

for help to enter into the court. It is also pointed out that in 

all those days, there was no pushing or cajoling, no 

threatening gestures made, no law and order problem and no 

circumstance was created for the police to interfere using 

force. 

11) Apart from the GD entries made in those dates, similar 

effect GD entries were made at the local police station by the 

concerned police officials who were detailed with force for duty 

at the District Court on 22.12.2006, 26.12.2006, 27.12.2006, 

31.12.2006, 02.01.2007 and 05.01.2007 under GDE Nos. 

1338, 1620, 1690, 1916, 91 and 275 respectively. All those 

GD entries are placed before us in the form of annexures. By 

pointing out these details, learned senior counsel appearing 

for the appellants pointed out that there was no intimation by 

the High Court till 05.01.2007. They also highlighted that at 

no point of time, there was any law and order problem and 

there was no coercion exercised by any of those conducting 

Satyagrah. On every single day from 15.12.2006 to 

05.01.2007, whenever Judicial Officers of the District Court, 

 1

Jalpaiguri attempted to enter into the Court premises, they 

were requested by the persons sitting in Satyagrah not to 

enter the court premises and thereupon the Judges and the 

officials and the staff voluntarily complied with and went back. 

12) From the materials placed on record, it is seen that only 

on 05.01.2007, the Registrar General of the Calcutta High 

Court, for the first time, spoke over phone to Shri Anup 

Bhushan Vohra, DGP to enquire whether he knew about the 

problem which was "deteriorating" as no work was taking 

place in the Court at Jalpaiguri. In the affidavit filed by Mr. 

Vohra, it is stated that the Registrar General then handed over 

the phone to the then Chief Justice of the High Court - Hon'ble 

Mr. Justice V.S. Sirpurkar, who directed him to "keep the 

situation under watch". The affidavit further shows that the 

appellant Vohra assured the then Hon'ble Chief Justice that 

he would speak to the Superintendent of Police, Jalpaiguri and 

the Home Secretary of the State. According to him, as assured 

to the then Chief Justice, he informed both the officers. He 

also mentioned that this was not done in writing, but orally 

over phone to Mr. Prasad Ray, Home Secretary and Mr. 

 1

Tripurari, Superintendent of Police, Jalpaiguri. The assertion 

of the DGP in the form of an affidavit shows that there was no 

order by the then Hon'ble Chief Justice either on the 

administrative side or on the judicial side but only over phone 

he was asked to watch the situation and, in turn, he also 

assured him as well as intimated the same to the Home 

Secretary and Superintendent of Police, Jalpaiguri. In those 

circumstances and in view of the the materials placed by the 

DGP, the conclusion of the Division Bench that there was an 

"order" by the then Chief Justice is factually incorrect. 

13) It is brought to our notice that for the first time, that is, 

on 09.01.2007, the District Judge communicated to the 

Registrar General of the High Court regarding cessation of 

work by the Members of the Local Bar Association, Jalpaiguri 

and the Committee for Circuit Bench of the High Court at 

Calcutta. The contents of the said letter are also relevant, 

which reads as under:

 "To

 The Registrar General,

 High Court, Appellate Side,

 Calcutta.

 Dated : the 9th January, 2007.

 1

Sub: Cease work by the members of the Local Bar 

Association, Jalpaiguri and Samannyay Committee for 

Circuit Bench of the Hon'ble Court at Calcutta.

Sir,

 With due respect, I am to inform that today i.e., on 

9.1.07 I, along with all Judicial Officers, had been to the 

Court but at the entrance gate of the Court premises we 

were obstructed to enter into the premises.

 I held discussion with the agitating members and 

insisted that we should be allowed to enter into the premises 

for smooth functioning of the judicial administration but it 

was impressed by the agitating members of the Samannyay 

Committee, mainly, along with member of local bar that 

when the door for discussion is open we should 

communicate the Hon'ble Court that the impasse can only 

be resolved by discussion from and on behalf of the Hon'ble 

Court. The agitating members did not agree to my proposal 

to allow us to enter into the premises

 The recent resolution, enclosed herewith, will show 

that they have taken up different agitation programs till 

15.1.07 copy of which is enclosed herewith. When 

persuasion failed, we have come to the chamber and office of 

the District Judge at his bungalow where all the members of 

the office staff have also came.

 This is for your information and we are soliciting 

necessary instruction from your honour's end.

 Yours faithfully,

 (S. Bhattacharjee)

 Add District Judge, 1st Court and 

 District Judge-in-Charge, 

 Jalpaiguri.

Memo No. 17/G Dated: 9.1.07.

 Copy forwarded to the Superintendent of Police, 

Jalpaiguri, for information and necessary action.

 Sd/-(S. Bhattacharjee)

 1

 Add District Judge, 1st Court and 

 District Judge-in-Charge, 

 Jalpaiguri."

It was highlighted that no immediate response was received by 

the District Judge from the Registrar General, particularly, as 

to the contents of his letter.

14) However, on 10.01.2007, it was pointed out that for the 

first time the Addl. District Judge/District Judge-in-Charge 

Mr. S. Bhattacharjee, wrote directly to the District Magistrate 

Mr. R. Ranjit (appellant in Criminal Appeal No. 340 of 2007) 

requesting him to look into the matter and make endeavour to 

resolve the crisis so that the Judges could enter into the court 

premises to discharge their functions. The GD entry made on 

10.01.2007 under No. 614 recorded that police force was 

present at the main gate of the District Court from 1000 hrs. 

to 1300 hrs. and the Judicial Officers had come in some 

vehicles and after talking to the Members of the Committee, 

who with folded hands requested them not to enter into the 

court, they left the place. It was emphasised that even on this 

day, there was no request from the Judicial Officers to the 

police to help them enter into the court. 

 1

15) The GD entry made on 13.01.2007 under No. 795 was 

pressed into service which shows that a strong police 

arrangement was made at the District Court where Shri T.K. 

Das Addl. Superintendent of Police (HQ), Shri Swapan Kumar 

Das, Dy. Superintendent of Police (HQ) and Shri David Ivan 

Lepcha had supervised the duty and Shri Ashok Das, 

Executive Magistrate, was also present. It was pointed out 

that in the afternoon of 13.01.2007, the District Magistrate, 

the Superintendent of Police and other officers convened a 

meeting at the Circuit House with the Members of the 

Committee and had told them in no uncertain terms that 

administration will not wait for any "amicable settlement" any 

further and would resort to applying force on 15.01.2007 to 

ensure proper functioning of the court. This was conveyed 

over phone to the District Judge and it was also informed to 

him that heavy police arrangement would again be made on 

15.01.2007 onwards to ensure that Judges and Magistrates 

may enter into the court without any hindrance. This was 

also stated in the GD Entry No. 961 dated 15.01.2007. When 

the Addl. District Judge/District Judge-in-Charge arrived at 

 1

the court gate at 1030 hrs., he was requested by the Addl. SP 

to enter into the court premises, but after seeing a large 

gathering of the Members of the Committee and their 

sympathisers, the District Judge decided not to enter the court 

and returned back. It was recorded in the said GD entry that 

the Members of the Committee and their sympathisers were 

successfully persuaded to remove the rostrum from the gate of 

the court premises, which they themselves removed. The 

court gate was opened by 1530 hrs., and the District Judge 

was also intimated about the same. Apart from the above 

information, it was also pointed out that between 15.12.2006, 

the day from which the Committee started agitation 

to15.01.2007 when they called off the agitation, all 

bail/custody matters were dealt with by the 

Judges/Magistrates at their official residences in Jalpaiguri, 

arrested accused persons were produced by the police before 

them and in total 192 such cases were dealt with by the 

Magistrates at their residences during the said period, namely, 

15.12.2006 to 15.01.2007. 

 1

16) Apart from the above details, Mr. Vohra has also 

highlighted that he was informed of the importance of the 

situation only on 05.01.2007 and no specific 

information/report was received before this date from any 

State or Central Government Agency or officer about the same. 

He asserted that he acted promptly on or after 05.01.2007, 

briefing the Home Secretary of the State, Superintendent of 

Police, Jalpaiguri. 

17) In the meantime, it was pointed out that the then Chief 

Justice of the High Court, Hon'ble Mr. Justice V.S. Sirpurkar 

was elevated to the Supreme Court and he took oath on 

12.01.2007 and on 15.01.2007, the then Acting Chief Justice - 

Mr. Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya, sitting in a Bench Suo 

Motu issued two Rules to the following effect. 

 "The learned Registrar General of this Court has drawn 

 attention of this Court to the fact that due to agitation 

 started by the "Circuit Bench 'O' Sarbik Unnyayan Dabi 

 Adyay Samannaya Committee, Jalpaiguri," the Judicial 

 Officers in the District of Jalpaiguri including the learned 

 District Judge, Jalpaiguri, are unable to enter into the Court 

 premises from December 15, 2006.

 Office of the learned District Judge immediately drew 

 attention of such fact to the Inspector-in-charge, Kotwali 

 Police Station, Jalpaiguri Sadar, but no action was taken. 

 Subsequently, the learned District Judge brought the matter 

 to the notice of the learned Registrar General of this Court, 

 who in terms of the order by the then Hon'ble Chief Justice 

 2

of this Court, instructed the learned District Judge to ask 

the Superintendent of Police, Jalpaiguri to take immediate 

action, so that the Judicial Officers can enter into the Court 

premises for doing their duties.

 Although the learned District Judge, Jalpaiguri 

conveyed the decision of this Court to the Superintendent of 

Police, Jalpaiguri, so that the Judicial Officers can enter into 

the Court building and function, the Superintendent of 

Police, Jalpaiguri paid deaf ears to the request of the learned 

District Judge. Subsequently, the learned District Judge was 

directed to approach the District Magistrate of the District, 

so that the judiciary in the District can function. In spite of 

such communication, no action was taken from the end of 

the District Magistrate, Jalpaiguri.

 It appears from the note given by the learned Registrar 

General of this Court, that on January 5, 2007, the then 

Hon'ble Chief Justice of this Court directed the Director 

General of Police, West Bengal over phone to ensure proper 

functioning of the Jalpaiguri Court by taking effective steps 

without further delay and as a follow up action, the learned 

Registrar General also talked to the Director General of 

Police, West Bengal and enquired as to what effective steps 

had been taken for bringing back the normal situation, so 

that the learned District Judge's Court could function 

properly. 

 The Director General of Police, however, informed the 

learned Registrar General of this Court that he would take 

up the matter with the Home Secretary, Government of West 

Bengal and in the meantime, the learned District Judge, 

Jalpaiguri should be asked to write to the District 

Magistrate, Jalpaiguri requesting him to take steps for 

ensuring proper functioning of the Courts in Jalpaiguri with 

a copy to the Superintendent of Police, Jalpaiguri.

 As pointed out earlier, in spite of written 

communication given by the learned District Judge to the 

District Magistrate, Jalpaiguri, till today the Judges in the 

District Judge's Court at Jalpaiguri are unable to enter into 

the Court building.

 It appears from the various papers submitted by the 

learned District Judge through fax message to the learned 

Registrar General of this Court that the "Circuit Bench 'O' 

Sarbik Unnayayan Dabi Adyay Samannaya Committee, 

 2

Jalpaiguri" took a resolution of obstructing the ingress and 

egress to the Court building by various resolutions taken 

from time to time. From the resolution allegedly taken on 

December 23, 2006 which has been sent to the learned 

Registrar General of this Court by the learned District Judge 

concerned, it appears that in a meeting held at Nababbari 

premises the following persons participated and 

unanimously took a resolution to continue with the 

agitation:

(1) Sri Mukulesh Sanyal, President;

(2) Sri Sri Jiten Das, Ex. M.P. (C.P.M.);

(3) Sri Sri Debaprasad Roy, M.L.A. (Congress);

(4) Smt. Pratima Bagchi (R.S.P.):

(5) Sri Prabal Saha (Forward Block);

(6) Sri Pabitra Bhattacharyya (C.P.I.);

(7) Sri Somenath Pal (T.M.C.);

(8) Sri Amal Roy (C.P.I.M.L.);

(9) Sri Subhas Kumar Dutta, C.P.I.M.L. (Liberation);

(10) Sri Rabindra Lal Chakraborty (B.J.P.);

(11) Sri Chittaq De (Convenor, Co-ordination Committee of 

Plantation Works);

(12) Sri Sadhan Bose (Merchant Association);

(13) Sri Sarnarendra Prasad Biswas (North Bengal Chamber 

of Commerce);

(14) Sri Biswajit Das (Federation of Chamber of Commerce, 

Siliguri);

(15) Sri Sanjoy Chakraborty (Jalpaiguri Welfare 

Organisation).

 It further appears from the resolution of the meeting 

dated December 18, 2006 of the said "Jalpaiguri 'O' Sarbik 

Unnyayan Dabi Adyay Samannaya Committee" that one Sri 

 2

Benoy Kanta Bhowmick, presided over as President, 

supported the said illegal act of the Committee.

 In our view, the aforesaid act on the part of those 

persons abovenamed, acting on behalf of the said 

Committee, has resulted in constitutional breakdown in the 

District of Jalpaiguri, as a result, the citizens of Jalpaiguri 

District are immensely prejudiced and such act interferes 

with and obstructs administration of justice in the said 

District.

 We are also prima facie convinced that inaction on the 

part of the Director General of Police, West Bengal, District 

Magistrate, Jalpaiguri, the Superintendent of Police, 

Jalpaiguri and I.C., Kotwali Police Station, Jalpaiguri Sadar 

amounts to aiding and abetting the members of the said 

Committee, as a result of which, the judiciary is unable to 

function in that District for the last one month and all those 

persons are prima facie guilty of criminal contempt of a 

serious nature.

 Accordingly, let a Rule of contempt be issued calling 

upon all those 15 persons and Sri Benoy Kanta Bhowrnick, 

abovenamed, to show cause why they should not be 

penalised or otherwise dealt with for committing criminal 

contempt as defined in Section 2(c) of the Contempt of 

Courts Act, 1971 by creating impediment in functioning the 

judiciary in the District of Jalpaiguri for the last one month 

by restraining the Judicial Officers from entering into the 

Court building.

 Similarly, a Rule be also issued upon the Director 

General of Police, West Bengal, District Magistrate, 

Jalpaiguri, Superintendent of Police, Jalpaiguri, Inspector-

in-charge, Kotwali Police Station, Jalpaiguri Sadar to show 

cause why they should not be penalised or otherwise dealt 

with for aiding and abetting the aforesaid criminal contempt 

by remaining as silent spectators in spite of repeated 

directions not only given by the learned District Judge of the 

District, but also by the learned Registrar General and the 

former Hon'ble Chief Justice of this Court.

 Let these Rules be immediately served upon all the 

concerns through the Chief Secretary, Government of West 

Bengal by tomorrow.

 2

 The Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal, is 

 directed to communicate to this Court what action the 

 District Administration or the State Administration has 

 taken for removing the impediments creating by those 

 persons.

 Having regard to the serious nature of a criminal 

 contempt prima facie found by this Court, we direct the 

 Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal to see that in 

 course of this day proper step is taken, so that the learned 

 District Judge and all the Judicial Officers including the staff 

 of the District Court may enter into the building and 

 function normally.

 The Chief Secretary will further ensure that no 

 obstruction takes place in the matter of proper functioning of 

 the Court in any part of the said District.

 Office is directed to see that this order is 

 communicated to the Chief Secretary, Government of West 

 Bengal by 2 p.m. of this day.

 Let Rules be also issued by the office in course of this 

 day.

 The Rules are returnable on January 19, 2007 at 

 10.30 a.m.

 On the returnable date, the alleged contemnors above 

 named are directed to be present in Court at 10.30 a.m."

18) Pursuant to the issuance of the above Rules, the DGP-

Mr. Vohra and other three officials of the State Government 

i.e., the District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police and 

Inspector in-Charge, Kotwali P.S. Jalpaiguri also filed separate 

affidavits highlighting their stand. Apart from the affidavit 

filed by the Inspector in-Charge of Kotwali P.S., copies of the 

 2

entries made in the GD (which we referred in the earlier paras) 

maintained at the said P.S. were annexed to the affidavit. 

19) It is further seen that all the officials including the DGP 

were examined by the High Court while hearing the contempt 

petition and their depositions were recorded. We were also 

taken through their depositions and these were mostly in the 

nature of cross-examination. Learned senior counsel 

appearing for the DGP has highlighted even the copies of fax 

messages sent by the District Judge to the Registrar General 

of the High Court on various dates which were supplied to him 

after cross examination by the court. Even otherwise, as 

rightly pointed out that in none of the fax messages, the 

Judges/Magistrates had requested the police for help to 

neither enter into the court nor do the fax messages record 

that they went back to their residences voluntarily on being 

requested by the agitators. The impugned order of the High 

Court also shows that apart from the official witnesses, the 

other parties were also heard on 16.02.2007 by the Bench and 

ultimately the impugned order was passed on 02.03.2007 

convicting the appellants for criminal contempt of court and 

 2

sentencing them to simple imprisonment for a term of six 

months with a fine of Rs. 2,000/- each. 

20) Though the High Court has concluded that the above-

mentioned government officials had "aided and abetted" the 

perpetrators to agitation, as rightly pointed out by the learned 

senior counsel for the appellants, there is no material/basis 

for such conclusion. We have already pointed out that from 

the GD entries on various dates, i.e., from 15.12.2006 till 

15.01.2007, on all working days, whenever the Judicial 

Officers reach the main gate of the District Court, the 

organisers made a request with folded hands not to enter into 

the court premises and by their persuasion, the Judicial 

Officers returned to their homes. We have also noted that on 

any day neither the District Judge nor any other Judicial 

Officers directed the District Magistrate or the police officers 

present in the premises to remove all those persons. On the 

other hand, till the agitation was called off on 15.01.2007, the 

agitation was entirely peaceful and there was no law and order 

problem, sufficient police force was stationed and that the 

 2

Members of the Committee and their sympathisers kept 

requesting the District Judge/Magistrates and the officials and 

staff with folded hands not to enter the courts in view of their 

demand for establishment of the High Court Circuit Bench 

and the District Judge/Judicial Officers and the staff 

voluntarily returned home and did not ask the police to help 

them get into the court premises. We have already pointed out 

the assertion made in the form of an affidavit by the DGP - Mr. 

Vohra that when the then Chief Justice (Hon'ble Mr. Justice 

V.S. Sirpurkar) talked to him over phone, he did not order or 

direct him to remove the agitators by force but only directed 

him "to monitor the situation". There is no contra assertion or 

statement from the side of the High Court through Registrar 

General, who was supposed to be present when the then 

Hon'ble Chief Justice discussed with the DGP over phone. 

21) We are conscious of the fact that it is the responsibility of 

the State Administration to see that courts function on all 

working days without any hindrance. The administration of 

justice should never be stalled at the instance of anyone 

including the members of the bar even for any cause. 

 2

However, we have already noted that though the said 

Committee started Satyagrah in front of the District Court as 

early as on 15.12.2006 till 05.01.2007, no request from the 

District Judge or from the Registrar General for removal of 

rostrum put up in front of the gate and clearing the 

agitators/satyagrahis who comprises not only members of the 

bar, legislature, NGOs, persons from media and 

representatives from different walks of life was made. We have 

already observed that there is no reason to disbelieve the 

assertion of the DGP Mr. Vohra about the conversation made 

by the then Hon'ble Chief Justice and it is the definite case of 

the DGP that he was asked "to monitor the situation" and 

"keep a watch over the development". He asserted that there 

was no direction either from the then Chief Justice or from the 

Registrar General for taking appropriate action against the 

agitators. 

22) We are also satisfied that in none of the fax messages 

sent by the District Judge to the Registrar General, there was 

even a whisper that the Judges at the District Court had 

asked for any police help and there was no grievance that 

 2

police help was not made available to the Judges. In the facts 

and materials placed and demonstrated, we are of the view 

that the conclusion of the High Court that the appellants, 

more particularly, government officials were responsible for 

"aiding and abetting the agitators by non-action" cannot be 

accepted.

23) We are also satisfied from the materials placed that the 

police force was present at the gate of the District Court on all 

days except Sundays and holidays to supervise law and order 

situation and to assist the Judges and Judicial Officers, the 

fact remains that the District Judge and the Judicial Officers 

never asked for any police help for their entry into the court 

premises on all days starting from 15.12.2006 ending with 

15.01.2007 and all of them acceded to the humble request 

made by the agitators and returned home. It is true that on 

10.01.2007, the District Judge and the Judicial Officers 

requested the District Magistrate to take sincere efforts to 

resolve the crisis so that they may enter into the court 

premises and discharge judicial functions. 

 2

24) Another aspect with which we are unable to accept the 

conclusion of the Division Bench relates to the fact that fax 

messages were sent from the office of the District Magistrate. 

On this assumption, the Division Bench concluded that the 

District Magistrate himself had knowledge about the contents 

of the fax messages. It was explained that fax messages were 

sent from one of the nine fax machines installed at different 

rooms at the premises of the Office of the District Magistrate 

and, as rightly pointed out, this does not necessarily mean 

that the District Magistrate had knowledge about the matter of 

the contents. Merely because the fax machines available at 

the office of the District Magistrate were utilised, it cannot be 

presumed that the District Magistrate could have noted the 

contents. The said assumption cannot be accepted without 

any further material. 

25) It is true that several litigants might have suffered due to 

the non-functioning of the courts, however, it is brought to our 

notice that the concerned Magistrates were holding court at 

their residences and chambers to deal with all urgent matters 

 3

and 192 cases were dealt with by different Magistrates during 

the period 15.12.2006 to 15.01.2007. 

26) We are also satisfied that there was no wrongful restraint 

on the Judges and Judicial Officers of the District Court as is 

evident from the GD entries wherein it was recorded that the 

Judges and Judicial Officers had acceded to the request of the 

agitators and restrained themselves from entering the court 

premises though police force was present at the spot to 

facilitate their entry as and when directed. 

27) Though the Division Bench recorded a finding in the 

impugned judgment that because of the obstruction, the 

administration of justice in the District Court, Jalpaiguri was 

obstructed for a month in spite of specific request of District 

Judge, it was brought to our notice (which we have already 

noted in the earlier paras) that the District Judge for the first 

time on 10.01.2007 had communicated to the District 

Magistrate with a request to make endeavour to resolve the 

crisis and even in that communication there was no mention 

of using police force to remove the agitators by force. It is also 

evident that Judges of the District Court wanted a peaceful 

 3

solution and without use of force although in the fax messages 

sent by the District Magistrate to the Registrar General, it was 

complained that the Judges in the District Court were not 

allowed to enter into the court premises. 

28) We are also satisfied that there is no acceptable material 

in holding that the officials committed criminal contempt of 

the Judges in the District of Jalpaiguri by deliberately taking 

no action against the agitators resulting in interference with 

the due administration of justice. If we analyse the entire 

materials including their statements, affidavits, GD entries, 

fax messages, correspondence between District Judge and 

Registrar General and District Magistrate, it cannot be 

concluded that the officials deliberately abstained from taking 

any action against the agitators. 

29) As mentioned above, in the absence of any order either 

on the judicial side by the then Chief Justice or any 

communication and direction through the Registrar General 

and in view of the assertion of DGP in the form of an affidavit 

about the conversation made by the then Chief Justice and 

himself, the contrary conclusion arrived at by the Division 

 3

Bench holding that the DGP has disobeyed the order of the 

then Chief Justice to take immediate step for restoration of 

functioning of the judiciary in the District cannot be accepted. 

30) In a matter of this nature, when the agitation started on 

15.12.2006 by way of a Committee comprising persons from 

different walks of life including members of the bar, media, 

business community, NGOs, elected representatives etc, it is 

but proper for the High Court to intervene at the earliest point 

of time by sending Administrative/Port-folio Judge or the 

Registrar General to the spot. Such recourse was admittedly 

not resorted to. Till 05.01.2007, no communication or any 

effort was made by the Registrar General to the District 

administration, particularly, officers concerned and to the 

District Magistrate. Even the District Judge did not make any 

request or issued directions for removal of the agitators who 

were conducting Satyagrah in a peaceful manner. We have 

already pointed out that every day on their request, all the 

Judicial Officers returned home to avoid any confrontation 

with the members of the bar and the Committee comprising 

persons from different walks of life. 

 3

31) In the earlier part of our order, we have highlighted that 

the allegations against all the appellants relate to criminal 

contempt. Though the High Court has heard certain officials, 

it is the grievance of the appellants that proper procedure was 

not followed in all their cases. In other words, "fair procedure" 

provided for "criminal contempt" had not been adhered to by 

the High Court. It is also their grievance that even no formal 

charge was framed. Inasmuch as the matter pertains to 

criminal contempt, the issue is to be proved beyond 

reasonable doubt. Admittedly, the District Judge did not file 

any affidavit highlighting his stand and steps taken, if any, 

even after knowing the claim of the appellants, particularly, 

with reference to the various GD entries and their specific 

stand. We are also satisfied that that charge against the 

criminal contempt has not been made out in the manner 

known to law.

32) It is also brought to our notice that all the appellants 

filed separate affidavits explaining their stand and tendered 

unconditional apology at the earliest point of time. 

Considering the nature of the demand which, according to 

 3

them, the High Court itself has passed a resolution acceding 

for the formation of the High Court Circuit Bench at Jalpaiguri 

and other relevant materials, the Division Bench ought to have 

accepted the affidavits tendering apology. In fact, the 

explanation to sub-section (1) of Section 12 of the Act enables 

the court to accept the apology if the same is bona fide and 

discharge the accused accordingly. Unfortunately, even such 

recourse was not followed by the High Court. In appropriate 

case, the acceptability of unconditional apology and regret has 

been explained by this Court in O.P. Sharma & Ors. vs. High 

Court of Punjab & Haryana, 2011 (5) Scale 518 = (2011) 6 

SCC 86. Considering the fact that the members of the bar 

who misbehaved with the court by raising slogans and 

realizing their mistake, dignity of the court and conduct of the 

legal profession tendered unconditional apology first before the 

Judge before whom the unfortunate incident had occurred, 

before the High Court where suo motu contempt was initiated 

and before this Court by filing affidavits. Expressing 

unconditional apology and regret with an undertaking that 

they would maintain good behaviour in future and if the same 

 3

is at the earliest point of time and bona fide, the Courts have 

to accept the same. In view of the language used in "proviso" 

and "explanation" appended to Section 12(1) of the Act, this 

Court accepted the affidavits filed by all the appellants in O.P. 

Sharma (supra) and discharged all of them from the charges 

leveled against them. 

33) In Vishram Singh Raghubanshi vs. State of Uttar 

Pradesh, (2011) 7 SCC 776, this Court reiterated the 

principles laid down in O.P. Sharma (supra) with regard to 

tendering unconditional apology and acceptance of the same. 

34) Finally, it is worthwhile to refer to a Full Bench decision 

of the Bombay High Court in Mohandas Karamchand 

Gandhi and Anr., AIR 1920 Bombay 175. It was an appeal 

filed against Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Mahadev 

Haribhai Desai, who were the Editor and Publisher 

respectively of a newspaper called `Young India'. They were 

charged with contempt of Court for publishing in that 

newspaper, on 6th August, 1919, a letter dated 22nd April, 1919 

written by the District Judge of Ahmedabad to the Registrar of 

the High Court and also with publishing comments on that 

 3

letter. The gist of the charge was that the letter in question 

was a private official letter forming part of certain proceedings 

then pending in this Court and that the comments which both 

of them made in their newspaper were comments on that 

pending case. Ultimately, this Court, after stating that the 

same ought not to have been published, reprimanded them. 

Though we are not concerned about the factual details and the 

ultimate decision, the following observation relating to power 

of the Court in contempt proceedings and how the same to be 

applied had been reiterated at page 180 which reads as under:

 ".........We have large powers and, in appropriate cases, can 

 commit offenders to prison for such period as we think fit 

 and can impose fines of such amount as we may judge right. 

 But just as our powers are large, so ought we, I think, to use 

 them with discretion and with moderation remembering that 

 the only object we have in view is to enforce the due 

 administration of justice for the public benefit."

35) It is not in dispute that all the appellants have filed 

separate affidavits tendering unconditional apology at the 

earliest point of time before the High Court. We are satisfied 

that no case has been made out for criminal contempt against 

the appellants and there is nothing wrong in accepting their 

unconditional apology and request which was made at the 

earliest point of time.

 3

36) Keeping the above principles and factual details as 

mentioned in earlier paras in mind, we pass the following 

order: 

 In view of the above discussion and abundant materials, 

we are satisfied that in this suo motu proceeding, the High 

Court has not made out a case to punish all the appellants 

under "criminal contempt" in terms of Section 2 (c) read with 

Section 12 of the Act. We were informed that the appellant-

Mukulesh Sanyal in Criminal Appeal No. 395 0f 2007 and 

appellant-Smt. Pratima Bagchi in Criminal Appeal No. 399 of 

2007 have been reported dead. Thus these two appeals filed 

by them stand abated. The conviction and sentence on the 

other appellants are set aside and all of them are discharged 

from the charges leveled against them. All the appeals are 

allowed. 

 ..........................................J. 

 (P. SATHASIVAM) 

 ..........................................J. 

NEW DELHI; (DR. B.S. CHAUHAN) 

SEPTEMBER 16, 2011.  3

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