HC not competent to hear contempt pleas in cases transferred to CAT

HC not competent to hear contempt pleas in cases transferred to CAT
File photo of J&K High CourtMubashir Khan/ GK File

Srinagar: High Court of J&K and Ladakh has ruled that it has no jurisdiction to hear contempt proceedings relating to interim orders passed by it in cases transferred to Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT).

The Court held that the orders passed from time to time in the proceeding that stand transferred to the Tribunal from the High Court under Section 29 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 shall no longer remain the orders of the High Court. “If that be the clear position, the Tribunal under Section 17 of the Act shall have the jurisdiction to initiate contempt proceedings for willful disobedience and non-compliance of the orders, which were passed by the High Court and on transfer became and shall be deemed to be the orders of the Tribunal”.

The Court said this while dealing with the issue whether the CAT constituted under Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 shall have power and authority under Section 17 of the Act to punish for contempt in relation to an interim order passed by the High Court in a writ petition, which was subsequently transferred to tribunal under Section 29 of the Act.

Holding a batch of contempt petitions as not “maintainable”, a bench of Justice Sanjeev Kumar said in the petitions which “stand transferred to the Tribunal from the High Court under Section 29 of the Act and the Tribunal decides to proceed to deal with these petitions from the stage it was reached before such transfer, all orders passed and the proceedings taken in such matters shall be and shall be deemed to have been passed by the Tribunal”.

It is on this analogy only, the Court said, the Tribunal gets power and jurisdiction to vacate, modify or vary such orders on an application moved by the aggrieved party.

“Under Article 215 of the Constitution of India read with relevant provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, High Court alone has the power and jurisdiction to punish for contempt of itself and in the similar manner under Section 17 of the Act, the Tribunal has been given power and jurisdiction to punish for contempt of itself.”

The Court observed that whenever a pending matter stands transferred to the Tribunal under Section 29 of the Act and the Tribunal proceeds to deal with it from the stage which was reached before such transfer, all orders passed by this Court in such matter get transferred along with the file of the writ petition and ipso facto become the orders of the Tribunal.

The Tribunal, on receipt of records of the writ petition, the Court said, has the option to proceed to deal with such petition from the stage which was reached before such transfer or from an earlier stage or de novo as the Tribunal may deem fit.

“And in case, the Tribunal proceeds to deal with the matter from the stage it had reached before such transfer, all orders passed and the proceedings taken in the matter shall be deemed to be the orders passed and the proceedings taken by the Tribunal. It is only then the Tribunal shall have the jurisdiction to proceed from the stage it was reached before such transfer”.

The Court however said it is a different matter that if the Tribunal decides to relegate itself to an earlier stage in the proceedings or decides to deal with the transferred petition de novo. “In such eventuality, the interim or interlocutory orders passed by the High Court shall efface”, the Court said.

Observing that the contempt petitions were not maintainable before it, Justice Sanjeev Kumar said: “Viewed from any angle, I am of the considered view that contempt in relation to the orders passed by this Court in the petitions, which subsequently stand transferred to the Tribunal under Section 29 of the Act, shall lie only and only before the Tribunal under Section 17 of the Act”.

The Court however said it shall remain open to the petitioners to approach the Tribunal by way of an application under Section 17 of the Act read with Contempt of Courts (C.A.T.) Rules, 1992.

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