Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora opined that the lawyer had abused the legal process and shown disregard for the Court’s orders.
The Court said that if the lawyer does not suffer the consequences for willful default and breach of his undertakings given to the Court, it would embolden him to similarly abuse the process of law in the future and victimise fellow citizens.
The Delhi High Court on Thursday sentenced a lawyer to six months imprisonment and also imposed a fine of ₹2,000 after finding him guilty of contempt of court [Parnita Kapoor v Arvind Malik]
“This is a fit case where any leniency shown by the Court will be misunderstood as weakness,” the single-judge added.
The petitioners in the case were the owners of a property which the lawyer used to occupy and use for commercial purposes by renting out as paying guest accommodation.
The lawyer had failed to pay outstanding dues amounting to ₹32 lakh to the petitioners despite multiple court orders as well as an undertaking on his behalf.
In his undertaking, the lawyer had stated that he would pay the entire outstanding amount in three instalments within two months and that he would vacate the property by May 2021.
However, he failed to pay the amount and also delayed leaving the property till December 2021.
During the contempt proceedings, the lawyer tendered an unconditional apology and asked the court to take a lenient view with regard to punishment on the ground of his young age.
Justice Arora refused to accept this apology reasoning that it was only lip-service and aimed at avoiding consequences.
“This Court is therefore of the opinion that the Respondent herein has not tendered an unconditional apology and in fact, the apology is merely a lip-service and a stratagem to avoid the consequences of the wilful default and non-compliance committed by the Respondent.”
The Court further said that a law-abiding citizen would have vacated the premises immediately if they did not have the wherewithal to pay the use and occupation charges.
“However, it is a matter of record that the respondent continued to use and occupy the subject property until 15.12.2021; and as has come on record he was using it as a paying guest accommodation for income.”
The single-judge also observed that the lawyer was using his knowledge of the law to abuse procedural safeguards by causing prejudice to the petitioner in denying him possession of the property as well as the use and occupation charges.
“The Respondent herein therefore took resort to legal process to injunct the landlord from interfering in his enjoyment of the subject property and sought to use the process to deny payment of admitted rent of Rs. 1,60,000 per month to the landlord.”
Along with the sentence, the Court also directed that the order be sent to the Bar Council of Delhi for taking necessary action against the lawyer. It was also recorded that should the lawyer commit contempt of court again, it would be considered aggravated contempt of court.
Advocate Rajan Tyagi represented the petitioners while the respondent appeared in person along with advocate Chandan Kumar Mandal.