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Whether production of forged document to stall court auction amounts criminal contempt of court?

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Criminal Appeal D. No. 4120 of 2015

Decided On: 14.08.2017

Radhe Shyam Middha
Vs.
State of Delhi

Hon’ble Judges/Coram:
Ranjan Gogoi, L. Nageswara Rao and Navin Sinha, JJ.

Citation:(2017) 15 SCC539

1. This appeal Under Section 19(1)(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (hereinafter for short the ‘Act’) is directed against the order of the Delhi High Court dated 22.01.2015 holding the Appellant guilty of commission of criminal contempt within the meaning of Section 2(c) of the Act. The High Court has sentenced the Appellant to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of one month.

2. A recapitulation of the core circumstances in which the impugned order of the High Court has been passed may be made at the outset.

3. In a Writ Petition i.e. W.P. (C) No. 1399 of 2010 “National Forests Investors Regd. v. Golden Forests India Ltd.” pending before the High Court, a miscellaneous application i.e. C.M. No. 8058 of 2014 was filed for confirmation of sale of land measuring 244 canals and 13 marlas in villages Dangdehri, Tehsil & District Ambala, Haryana in which regard an advertisement dated 10.05.2014 had been issued in several national newspapers. Pursuant to the aforesaid advertisement one M/s. Dera Sacha Sauda (Trust), Sirsa had submitted the highest bid of Rs. 18.5 crores. The aforesaid bid was duly accepted and, as required, the trust had deposited 20 per cent of the bid amount.

4. When the application for confirmation of sale had come up before the High Court on 02.07.2014, one Mohit Paul, Advocate claiming to represent one Golden Forest Investors Society submitted before the Court that one Manvir Singh was willing to purchase the property for Rs. 21.15 crores. Keeping in mind the public interest involved, the High Court in order to test the bona fide of the said offer, by order dated 02.07.2014, directed that the bidder should deposit 50 per cent of the amount offered within a week of the order dated 02.07.2014. No such deposit was made. However, on the next date of hearing i.e. 11.07.2014 a deposit confirmation advice of H.D.F.C. Bank to the extent of Rs. 12 crores standing in the name of one Harmohinder Singh was placed before the Court without, however, showing any connection between the offerer Manvir Singh and the person in whose name the deposits were made i.e. Harmohinder Singh. In these circumstances one final opportunity was granted by the High Court. Pursuant thereto a demand draft on behalf of the Appellant representing one “Harry Township Ltd.” was furnished before the High Court. The said bank draft was issued by the Axis Bank Limited, Rohini, New Delhi. On 24.07.2014, the successful bidder levelled an allegation against the Appellant that the aforesaid bank draft was forged. Being prima facie satisfied, by order dated 24.07.2014, the High Court ordered an inquiry into the matter.

5. Pursuant to the said order, a Joint Registrar of the High Court made an inquiry and on conclusion thereof submitted a report to the effect that the bank draft tendered before the Court, indeed, was forged. In the course of inquiry proceedings the Appellant was also examined. In the course of such examination the Appellant had submitted that the bank draft tendered by him in Court was given to him by one Gurmeet Singh Wadhalia who, however, could not be located. Subsequently, it transpired that the said person had died in a road accident on 12.10.2014 somewhere in Chamoli District of Uttrakhand.

6. It is in these circumstances that the High Court had drawn up an Article of charge with regard to commission of contempt by the Appellant. The said charge was primarily based on the fact that the forged bank draft was placed before the Court by the Appellant in order to stall the confirmation of sale in favour of the genuine bidder.

7. In the proceedings before the High Court the Appellant did not contest the authenticity of the bank draft and admitted that the same was forged. His principal defence appears to be that the demand draft in question was handed over to him by Gurmeet Singh Wadhalia and that he had no knowledge that the instrument was forged.

8. The High Court on a very elaborate consideration of the matter took the view that the explanation offered by the Appellant was not at all acceptable. In this regard the High Court came to the conclusion that the materials on record proved and established that the association of the Appellant with Gurmeet Singh Wadhalia was of recent origin and having regard to the short period of time that the two had known each other it was unnatural that Gurmeet Singh Wadhalia would have handed over a demand draft of the sum of Rs. 21.5 crores to the Appellant. The High Court also took the view that the Appellant was primarily engaged in the real estate business and the explanation given by him before the Court was too naive for acceptance; that the Appellant was guilty of commission of contempt and, therefore, deserved to be sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment for one month.

9. We have heard learned Counsels for the parties and considered the rival stands in the light of the materials on record.

10. The initial offer of Rs. 21.5 crores made by Advocate Mohit Paul was on behalf of one Manvir Singh who neither deposited 50 per cent of the amount, as directed by the High Court, nor established his credentials. The order dated 23.07.2014 of the High Court passed in this regard which noted the circumstances in which the bank draft came to be placed before the Court would need to be extracted to throw light at the circumstances in which the Bank draft came to be deposited in the High Court.

Mr. Anip Sachthey, learned Counsel on behalf of Mr. Radhey Shyam, S/o Shri Diwan Chand, R/o 3046, Sector-28D, Chandigarh and House No. 9, Sector-19, Chandigarh/has tendered the demand draft No. 882662, dated 22.07.2014, issued by the Axis Bank Limited, Plot No. 5, Vikas Surya Plaza, Community Centre, D.C. Chowk, Sector-9, Rohini, New Delhi-110085, favouring the Chairman, Committee of Golden Forest India Limited for the sum of Rs. 21.50 Crores. It is submitted that the matter is sent back to the Committee for fresh process of bidding. The said Mr. Radhey Shyam represents one Harry Township Limited, which is interested in bidding on behalf of the said company in the said sum of Rs. 21.50 Crores. Mr. Sachthey, Advocate seeks a day’s time to file an affidavit disclosing the particulars of the bidder such as the name of the company, company’s PAN number, Resolution authorizing the purchase of the land as well as the particulars with respect to its Board of Directors, whether they are an income tax payee, etc. The affidavit shall be tendered tomorrow, i.e., 24.07.2014. The said demand draft is hereby taken on record and shall be kept in the physical custody of the Registrar General, to be produced tomorrow. Mr. Himanshu Kapoor, Advocate appears on behalf of Mr. Nikhil Kant Syal, S/o Shri Rakesh Kant Syal. The particulars and relevant details of Mr. Nikhil Kant Syal shall be filed in the Court in the form of an affidavit within a week from today.

List on 24th July, 2014.

A copy of this order be given under the signatures of Court Master.

11. Though the Appellant claimed to be representing one Harry Township Limited, pursuant to the above order of the Court dated 23.07.2014 the Appellant filed an affidavit enclosing inter alia the PAN Card of one M/s. Real Pro Assets Ltd. The Bank draft was stated to have been facilitated from the Bank Account of one “Deepak Holdings” claimed to be a sister concern of M/s. Real Pro Assets Ltd. It was also stated in the said affidavit that it is M/s. Real Pro Assets Ltd. which desired to submit the bid. However, when the bank draft, on inquiry, was found to be forged the Appellant accepted the said fact and put up a new case saying that the bank draft in question was handed over to him by one Gurmeet Singh Wadhalia. The circumstances in which the bank draft allegedly came into the possession of the Appellant and was placed before the Court are replete with ambiguities and inconsistencies, as noticed above, which makes the version offered by the Appellant unworthy of belief being, even prima facie, opposed to all acceptable canons of human conduct.

12. The High Court has elaborately considered these circumstances and has arrived at the impugned conclusion with which we can find no fault. Having considered the totality of the facts, set out above, we are of the view that the Appellant had deliberately and intentionally furnished a forged bank draft to stall the auction process and has, therefore, interfered in the process of administration of justice warranting the findings recorded against him with regard to the commission of contempt. The rejection of the “apology” offered by the applicant was in our view, rightly made by the High Court. We, therefore, affirm the said findings. The sentence of simple imprisonment for one month, awarded by the High Court, is in fact, far too lenient to call for interference.

13. Accordingly, while upholding the impugned judgment and order dated 22.01.2015 of the High Court, we dismiss the present appeal.

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