The Madras High Court has dismissed with costs of Rs.5,000 a contempt application seeking to punish the court-appointed Commissioner to administer Alwarpet Benefit Fund Ltd., for allegedly disobeying a court order of December 2008. The company had allegedly cheated several depositors.

In his order, Justice K.Chandru said when the Commissioner, Justice A.Raman, had not made any wilful disobedience of the High Court's order, the question of filing any contempt did not arise. Such an action could not be entertained.

In the absence of any personal allegation or without any averment that there was a wilful disobedience, the petitioner's attempt to file a contempt petition against a retired High Court Judge, who was acting as Commissioner, was a clear abuse of the court process. If such actions were allowed as a matter of course, then no retired High Court Judge would agree to offer his services in administering such funds.

The matter related to the auction of 2.78 acres in Thaiyyur village in Kancheepuram district during the tenure of an earlier Commissioner.

The petitioner in the contempt application, B.Masthan Rao, was the highest bidder quoting Rs.8.75 crore.

As he was permitted to pay the amount in instalments, he paid less than half of the amount. Subsequently, he was given several extensions in order to fetch income for the fund. The High Court rejected his plea seeking sale of 50 per cent of property to him based on his earlier payments.

In its order in December 2008, the court cancelled the sale of land to Mr.Rao and permitted the Commissioner to return Rs.4 crore to him.

No time limit fixed

The court did not fix any time limit for returning the amount mainly because that involved administrative work as well as ready availability of funds deposited by the petitioner. Though the petitioner's counsel sought fixing of a time limit, the court declined to do so. Knowing these facts, the petitioner served a notice on the Commissioner and also filed the contempt petition in January 2009.

Mr.Rao had earlier filed an appeal against the December 2008 order.

Aggrieved by the court order, the Commissioner also filed an appeal.

When the appeals came up in April last year, the court recorded a joint memo of compromise filed by both parties. By the agreement, 1.62 acres were to be sold to the petitioner for Rs.5.10 crore.

Therefore, Mr.Justice Chandru said, there was no question of disobedience of any court order.

The Judge directed the petitioner to pay the exemplary costs to Mr.Justice A.Raman for having filed a frivolous petition and for wasting the court's time.