The Punjab & Haryana High Court, on 6th January 2021, in the matter of “Ashish v. State Information Commissioner Haryana And Others (RA-CW-194-2020 CM-9430-CWP-2020 with CM-13140-CWP-2020 CM-9431-CWP-2020 with CM-42-CWP-20 21 in CWP-6874-2018)” noted that an implementing party could not be made liable to be proceeded under the “Contempt of Court Act”, for non-compliance of a judicial order, if such an order is impractical to be complied with.
The said judgement was issued while hearing a Writ Petition filed by Vikas Chatrath, in regards to a case where there was a demand of CCTV footage by the Court by the respondent in the present case. However, the said CCTV footage could not be provided by the respondent as it was deleted beyond recovery. It was hence contented by the petitioner that the inaccessibility caused by the respondent, and non-compliance to the Judicial Order shall be held in Contempt of Court.
It was argued by the respondent that such information was not available with the respondent even at the time when the interim order was passed by the Court and thus, it was submitted that the order passed by the Court was impossible to comply with.
The Bench of Justice Augustine George Masih noted in the matter that, “(If) there is an automatic provision of the erasing of the CCTV Footage leading to no-retrieval thereof, the factum of non-compliance of the order passed by this Court would in itself not render the (implementing party) liable for proceedings under the Contempt of Court Act.” It was also observed that, “in case the said information is not available with the respondents and there is an automatic provision of the erasing of the CCTV Footage leading to no-retrieval thereof, the factum of non-compliance of the order passed by this Court would in itself not render the respondent liable for proceedings under the Contempt of Court Act as it is a settled proposition of law that an order, which cannot be complied with, practically would not amount to contempt.”
The High Court further remarked that if the said information was available with the concerned Police Department, and if the petitioner approached the Department under Right to Information Act (hereinafter referred to as ‘RTI’), then said information shall be provided to the petitioner, if permissible, and subject to the provisions of RTI.
Bearing in mind the aforementioned observations and the “limited scope of review”, the High Court disposed off the Writ Petition.