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Court said that the the man never had any intention of bringing the child back to India.
The Supreme Court has sentenced a nonresident Indian (NRI) to six months in jail and imposed a Rs 25 lakh fine after holding him guilty of contempt of court for defying the previous order of bringing back his child to India on July 1, 2022.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay S Oka also directed the Government of India as well as the Central Bureau of Investigation to take all possible and permissible steps to secure the presence of the contemnor, Naveen Sharma, in India with a view to ensure that he undergoes the sentence and pays the fine.
"The acts and omissions of the contemnor...amount to both civil and criminal contempt. This calls for strict action against him," the bench held.
The court noted the man was held guilty of contempt by an order passed on January 16, 2023, and he had not shown any remorse even after three months.
In fact, he never had any intention of bringing the child back to India, it said.
Acting on a plea by his wife, the bench cited the case of 'In Re: Perry Kansagra' (2022) which stated in view of Article 129 of the Constitution, the power of the top court to punish a person for contempt is not constrained by the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
"In fact, this court has observed that the power of this Court to punish a person for contempt is unrestricted by the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971," the bench said.
In the case at hand, the court noted that the contemnor had shown scant respect to the judicial proceedings pending before it.
"He has defied assurance given to this court that he has submitted himself to the jurisdiction of this court", the bench said.
It also pointed out that the contemnor went to the extent of opposing the request for mirroring the order of this court, which resulted in the denial of the said request by the concerned Foreign Court.
"In fact, due to the misrepresentation made by the contemnor, the Foreign Court has not honoured the principle of comity of Courts. The act of denying the fact that he voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of this court and his conduct of opposing the request for the grant of mirroring order amounts to interference with the administration of justice and obstructing the administration of justice," the bench said.
The man, on his part, claimed that he had acted in the best interests of the minor child who held a USA passport. He contended that as the child was subjected to sexual abuse while he was staying with the petitioner in India, a forensic investigation is in progress in the United States of America (USA), and therefore, the child cannot be brought back to India unless the investigation is over.
The court, however, held that the man showed scant regard to the orders passed by it.
"The contemnor always acted contrary to the statement made by him on more than one occasion that he has subjected himself to the jurisdiction of this court. He pleaded in the Courts in the USA that he has not subjected himself to the jurisdiction of this Court," the bench said.
Case Title: Meenal Bhargava vs. Naveen Sharma & Ors
Statute: Contempt of Courts Act, 1971
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