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Supreme Court refuses to grant relief to disgruntled sons seeking to challenge Madras HC order

The Apex Court in its order dated June 11, 2021, had noted the submission made by counsel for the petitioner who had sought time till June 13, 2021, to vacate the said premises and was asked to file compliance affidavit on June 14, 2021.

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The Supreme Court refused to give any relief to disgruntled sons who have challenged the order of Madras High Court for initiation of contempt proceedings against them as they have not vacated their father’s property as directed by the court of V Metropolitan Magistrate, Chennai, within a stipulated period.

The bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V. Ramasubramanian has disposed of the matter after hearing it at length, on the undertaking given by sons that they will vacate the property on or before June 17, 2021. The Court refused to grant them any protection from arrest. As per the Madras High Court order dated June 4, 2021, the clear directions were passed to initiate contempt proceedings against them. “In the ultimate analysis, we are of the opinion that the respondents are guilty under Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 and accordingly, they are sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of three months and pay a fine of Rs 2000 each, in default thereof, to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of one week,” noted the Madras High Court in its order.

The Apex Court in its order dated June 11, 2021, had noted the submission made by counsel for the petitioner who had sought time till June 13, 2021, to vacate the said premises and was asked to file compliance affidavit on June 14, 2021.

During the hearing of the matter today i.e. June 15, 2021, the Counsel Anup Kumar, appearing for Petitioner stated that – “Sunday (June 14, 2021) was complete lockdown”.

Bench submitted that –“ You could have vacated it, we will now dismiss this application.”

Petitioner – “We will try to vacate within 15 days. Kindly see the Government Order.”

Bench- “You can’t misbehave with your father, you can’t say such things, we have already heard you.” We are dismissing the present appeal and directing the local authorities to give the complete possession.

Petitioners – My lord, Sunday it was total lockdown, kindly give me some time, atleast 15 days.”

Advocate Krishna Mohan menon appeared on behalf of Respondent (father), submitted that it has been one and a half year.

Bench said to Petitioner that “whatever it is, we had given you direction, you were supposed to vacate, even if it was Sunday, there was Monday. Enough is enough.”

Petitioner stated that “ Kindly give me 7 days, it was impossible my lord.”

Bench submitted that “If Sunday was lockdown, you could have given it on Monday.”

At last, Bench infuriated and stated that “ We have heard you enough we are not entertaining the present appeal, you have lost chance of taking indulgence. You vacate by Thursday.”

Counsel for Petitioner submitted that “ I’ll vacate today if I get the premise. Meanwhile , kindly grant stay order of High Court. It is likelihood that Police might arrest me.”

The Respondent P.S.Murthi (their father) who is more than 87-year-old had filed contempt petition before High Court of Madras against PS Vijay and PS Suraj for wilful breach of undertaking dated 28.12.2019 given to court of V Metropolitan Magistrate, of Egmore, Chennai. The said undertaking was for vacating the house where they were living with their father, to save themselves from the criminal complaint which was filed by their old age father for the ill treatment he received by his young sons.

The Division Bench of Madras HC had observed that by non-compliance of its own undertaking given to Court of MM ,despite the fact that Murthi, father of the Petitioners consented that no further action shall be taken against them , since the Petitioners undertook to vacate from premises bearing No. K-90, Anna Nagar East, Chennai within one Month.

The Madras HC had noted, “Thus, subsequent act of deliberately backing out from the terms of the undertaking by alleged contemnors i.e. PS Vijay and PS Murali constitutes a serious interference in breach of administration of Justice and further hold stringent view that breach of undertaking given to District Court will not constitute civil contempt within meaning of Section 2(b) of Contempt of Courts Act.”

It is equally well settled that a wilful breach of an undertaking given to the Court would constitute civil contempt. In Port of Mumbai vs. Nikhil N.Gupta [(2015) 10 SCC 139], the Supreme Court observed as under:

“18.The principles relating to contempt of court are clear. The definition of “civil contempt” includes wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court. Public interest requires that solemn undertakings given to a court with the intention of obtaining any benefit should not be breached wilfully. The respondents cannot be absolved of the undertaking on purely ground that the undertaking was given under misconception. The breach of solemn undertaking given to a court is a serious matter and will have to be sternly dealt with…..”

The Background of the case is that PS Murthi, father of Vijay and Suraj was allotted a plot by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board on 26.05.1972, in which, he built a two-storeyed house bearing Door No.K-90 (New No.K-4), 14th Street, Anna Nagar, Chennai 600 102. He retired 27 years ago and was peacefully living in the first floor of the said house along with his wife and his fourth son, viz., Laxmi Rajah. Apart from this house, he owns some other properties in and around Chennai.

The basic dispute actually arose on the demise of the mother of the Petitioners and after it they started demanding share in properties. The Petitioners PS Vijay and PS suraj took possession of ground floor of the house. A settlement deed was executed by Murthi in favour of his 4th Son as he was scared that the other sons might dispossess him from the said property. One of the Daughter in law of Murthi assaulted Murthi and rest 3 daughter in laws filed police complaint against their father in law i.e. Murthi.

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The Madras High Court Justice R Pongiappan had quoted phrase “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child” by William Shakespeare- King Lear – Act 1, Scene 4, while referring to the ill treatment which was meted out to an octogenarian by his so called beloved sons.

The High Court further went on to describe that, P.S. Murthi, who is now aged 87 years, was employed in the Department of Telecommunication as a Senior Officer. He is blessed with five children, viz., Raghu (55 years), Vijay (53 years), Suraj (50 years), Laxmi Rajah (44 years) and Gokul (40 years). However, he is not lucky like King Pandu, father of the Pancha Pandavas, in that, after the death of his wife in 2011, his life became miserable on account of his sons.

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