“Court is not a fragile flower”, Kerala High Court orders service at Palliative Care Centre for contempt of court
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“Court is not a fragile flower”, Kerala High Court orders service at Palliative Care Centre for contempt of court

Murali Krishnan

The Kerala High Court today berated a couple for contempt of court while ordering them to do service at a Palliative Care unit as punishment.

The order was passed by a Bench of Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar.

The court while passing the order noted that the majesty of the court has not been affected by the acts of contempt and also stated that,

“This court is not a fragile flower that it will wither in the heat of such confrontation.”

The case arises from default in payment of loan availed by one AR Sajan. One of the contemnors, MV Shaji had stood security to the said loan. On default, proceedings for recovery commenced. It culminated in an order passed by Debt Recovery Tribunal directing the sale of the property belonging to MV Shaji.

When attempts by Advocate Commissioner to take possession of the property met with stiff resistance by the contemnors – Shaji and his wife Preetha Shaji – a writ petition was filed in the Kerala High Court seeking police protection.

The same was granted by the High Court. Despite the same, the attempts by police authorities to implement the directions of the Court were rendered futile by the contemnors who along with their supporters caused a tense and volatile situation to prevail in the area.

Eventually, the matter came to a close after an original petition was filed in the High Court and Shaji effected payments to the bank and the possession of the property was restored to him.

However, a contempt of court petition was initiated by MN Ratheesh who was one of the auction purchasers.

The Court in its order noted the history of the case before stating that the act of the couple of wilful obstruction amounted to “prima facie contemptuous conduct”.

The court also noted that the couple had filed an affidavit admitting to contempt of court on their part and offering an unconditional apology.

The Court said that the acts of the contemnors have not in any way affected the majesty of the Court.

“This court is not a fragile flower that it will wither in the heat of such confrontation.”

However, it was concerned with the message that would be carried to society at large if the contumacious act went 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.”

Obedience to lawful orders passed by a court in our country cannot be at the discretion of the person to whom it is directed, the Court said.

Regarding the punishment, the Court held that since the contemnors have been held guilty of conduct which was done prior to the redressal of their grievance by way of an original petition, the punishment should not be one which deprives them of their liberty through incarceration.

State Attorney KV Sohan was directed to provide a list of punishments which could be imposed after consultation with the District Collector. Based on the list submitted by Sohan, the Court imposed the punishment of doing service at Palliative Care Unit at Ernakulam.

Read the judgment below.

preetha-shaji-contempt-order.pdf
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