Delhi High Court has said it does not have the jurisdiction to entertain criminal contempt reference received from the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and remitted back the matter to the tribunal. Hearing a case, it said the CAT has exclusive jurisdiction to entertain such contempt proceedings. The High Court was hearing a case registered on the basis of reference received in April from the Principal Registrar, CAT on an order passed by the tribunal in the case involving whistleblower officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi. The order mentioned the gist of developments that had taken place in open court including issuance of a show cause notice to Mehmood Pracha, Chaturvedi's counsel to explain as to why contempt proceedings for the acts on his part be not initiated. On the next date of hearing, i.e. February 22, 2019, time was sought to file reply and it was granted. However, no explanation was filed by the counsel for the petitioner.
On the other hand, an application was filed by the petitioner with a prayer to correct the order. The CAT then felt that having regard to various developments that have taken place, it is no longer feasible for it to deal with the contempt case and it was decided to place the matter before the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court to take appropriate steps as are warranted in law. While deciding the case on May 30, the HC said it is of the view that it does not have the jurisdiction to entertain the present criminal contempt reference received from the CAT. "This Court is further of the opinion that Section 15(2) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 has no application in the context of contempt of CAT."
According to the section, in the case of any criminal contempt of a subordinate court, the High Court may take action on a reference made to it by the subordinate courts. "Accordingly, the present reference is remitted back to the CAT as it has the exclusive jurisdiction to entertain criminal contempt proceedings in the first instance, under Section 17 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985," the HC order said. Chaturvedi, a 2002-batch Indian Forest Service officer, has been contesting cases against the central government over adverse entries made in his appraisal report of 2015-16 by All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, and other related matters since 2016.