Sebastian M. Hongray vs Union Of India & Ors, AIR 1984 SC 1026

Sebastian M. Hongray vs Union Of India & Ors, 1984 AIR 1026

Before the Supreme Court of India

Decided on: 23 April 1984.


Author of the judgement: D. A. Desai

Advocates for the petitioner: Ms. Nandita Haksar and C.S. Vaidyanathan.

Advocate for the respondent: Ms. A. Subhashini, Mrs. Urmila Kapoor, V.C. Mahajan, P.N. Puri S.K. Mehta and Balbir Singh Shant.

Sr. No Title Sections
1 Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 Section 2(a) and section 2(b)

Brief Facts and Procedural History:

On 24th November 1983, a writ of mandamus was ordered by the court against the respondents- The Union of India, Secretary, Ministry of Home affairs and Commandant, 21st Sikh Regiment, Phungrei camp, to produce C. Daniel and C. Paul before the court.

Pursuant to this, a report was filed by the respondent stating that even though they had tried their best it was not possible for them to locate C. Paul and C. Daniel. It was reiterated that both these persons were not in the custody or control of the respondents. A CBI inquiry was also undertaken in order to find C. Paul ad C. Daniel but the results were not fruitful.


Whether the respondents have committed failure in order to produce the missing persons in respect of whom the writs are issued and to file the return as mandated by law?


The writ of the habeaus corpus was issued and was served on respondents 1, 2 and 4. In compliance with the mandatory directions contained in the writ of habeaus corpus, the person to whom it is directed is under the legal obligation to produce the body of the person alleged to be unlawfully detained before the court on the day specified and to make a formal return to the writ. The respondents thus have failed to comply with this obligation imposed upon them by the law.

The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 defines ‘contempt of court’ in Sec. 2(a) to mean ‘civil contempt or criminal contempt’. ‘Civil contempt’ is defined in Sec. 2(b) to mean wilful disobedience to any judgment decree, direction, order, writ or other processes of a Court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a Court.’ Wilful disobedience to a writ issued by the Court constitutes civil contempt.

Mere failure to obey the writ may not constitute civil contempt depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case. But wilful disobedience to a writ issued by a Court constitutes civil contempt. Again it is well-settled that ‘the appropriate mode of enforcing obedience to a writ of habeas corpus is by committal for contempt. A committal order may be made against a person who intentionally makes a false return to a writ of habeas corpus, but an unintentional misrepresentation on a return is not a ground for committal.’


In the present facts and circumstances, there is a wilful disobedience to the writ of habeas corpus by misleading the court by presenting a distorted version of facts not borne out by the record. It is thus established that the respondents 1, 2 and 4 have committed civil contempt by their wilful disobedience to the writ.

The court has directed that as a measure of exemplary cost, respondents shall pay Rs 1 lac to the two women of C Paul and C Daniel within a period of four weeks from today.

It was directed that the registrar judicial shall forward all the papers of the case accompanied by a writ of mandamus to the superintendent of police, Manipur State to be treated as information of cognizable offense and to commence an investigation as prescribed by the relevant provision of the code of criminal procedure.


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