March 9, 2024 In Uncategorized



A three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice B.R Gavai, Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Sandeep Mehta passed an Order dated 06.03.2024 in Civil Appeal No. 3865 / 2024 [Arising Out Of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.2159 Of 2016] in M/S Shah Enterprises Thr. Padmaben Mansukhbhai Modi Vs. Vaijayantiben Ranjitsingh Sawant & Ors. and held that by no stretch of imagination, it could be said that the filing of the Suit for asserting the rights of the Plaintiffs/Respondents could be said to amount to contempt of the Court, hence no interference was warranted in the Order dated 09.12.2015 of the High Court.


i) In the years 1953-54, the land bearing Survey Nos. 505, 506, and 507 was given on lease to one Bapusaheb Bajirao Sawant by one Nawab Mir Fakruddin Hussein Khan Vigore and three others (“Original Owners”) for 99 years.

ii) The said lease was cancelled in the year 1956 by the Original Owners by way of a Notice.

iii) That the said land bearing Survey Nos. 505, 506, and 507 were bought by 67 persons in the year 1969. However, the Sale Deed was originally executed in the name of four persons. The said land was subsequently divided into 67 divisions.

iv) That in the year 1972, after the death of Bapusaheb Bajirao Sawant, his legal heirs including one Ranjitsingh Bapusaheb Sawant filed Special Civil Suit bearing Nos. 23, 24, and 25 of 1972 in the Court of the Civil Judge (S.D.), Surat, claiming possession over the said land based on the lease deed.

v) That in the said Suits, a Compromise Agreement was entered into between the heirs of Bapusaheb Bajirao Sawant and the Original Owners of the property, whereby it was agreed that the lease issued in the year 1953 had been cancelled in the year 1956 and after the cancellation of the Lease Deed, the legal heirs had no right, title, and interest in the property based on heirship. The said Compromise Agreement was recorded as a Consent Decree by the Ld. Civil Judge (S.D.) Surat, vide Ofrder dated 18.09.1972.

vi) That in the year 1986 the Appellant, M/s Shah Enterprises bought the land admeasuring 20 acres out of the land bearing Survey No. 506 vide a registered Sale Deed.

vii) That in the year 2008 Ranjitsingh Bapusaheb Sawant, son of Bapusaheb Bajirao Sawant expired and that in the year 2014 his legal heirs filed Regular Civil Suit No. 645 of 2014 in the Court of Ld. Principal Civil Judge, Surat against 264 defendants, including the Appellant herein, for Declaration and Permanent Injunction.

viii) That in the year 2015, the Appellant sent Legal Notices to all the Respondents herein and brought to their attention the Consent Decree passed in the year 1972 and, therefore, requested them to withdraw the Suit filed before the Principal Civil Judge, Surat.

ix) That as the Respondents did not withdraw the Suit, the Appellant filed a Contempt Petition being Misc. Civil Application (For Contempt) No. 3364 of 2015 before the High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad. The said Petition vide Order 09.12.2015 was dismissed by the High Court.

x) Aggrieved by the Order dated 09.12.2015 of the High Court, the Appellant filed Civil Appeal No. 3865 Of 2024 [Arising Out Of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.2159 Of 2016] before the Supreme Court.


The Apex Court vide Order dated 06.03.2024, made the following observations:

(1) The Supreme Court observed that the High Court while rejecting the Petition of the present Appellant vide Order dated 09.12.2015 has observed that though there cannot be a dispute with the proposition that even consent terms incorporated in the Court’s Order when breached would give rise to allegations of contempt, in the present case, by mere filing of a civil suit asserting certain legal rights over the lands in question, it cannot be stated that the Plaintiffs have breached the consent terms. The High Court held that the act of the Respondents in filing the said Civil Suit may be one of annoyance or nuisance to the Contempt Petitioner (Appellant herein), however, mere filing of the suit would not amount to contempt.

(2) That the Suit filed by the Respondents was against the 264 defendants. The Respondents’ claim was over a vast stretch of land admeasuring about 2082 acres in relation to Survey Nos. 505, 506, and 507. The claim of the Appellant was only about 20 acres in Survey No. 506. Out of 264 Defendants, only the Appellant herein had filed the Contempt Petition.

(3) It was further observed by the Supreme Court that after being summoned in the Regular Civil Suit i.e. RCS No. 645 of 2014, the Appellant has filed an Application under Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) (Res judicata) read with Order XIV Rule 2 (Court to pronounce judgment on all issues) and Section 151 of the CPC (Saving of inherent powers of Court) for framing preliminary issues of limitation and res judicata. The said Application was heavily contested by the Respondents.

(4) The Apex Court observed that the Senior Counsel for the Appellant placed reliance on the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Delhi Development Authority vs. Skipper Construction and another (1995) 3 SCC 507 1995 INSC 105 but the Supreme Court held that the case that the Senior Counsel for the Appellant relied on was totally different from the facts of the present case.

(5) The Court further observed that it was clear that the consent terms entered into between one of the predecessors in title of the Respondents and the Original Owners had received the imprimatur of the Court. However, the Respondents claiming their ancestral rights over more than 2000 acres of land and also claiming that the said Consent Decree was obtained in collusion, had filed the Suit in question. Further, the Appellant has participated in the said proceedings. At his instance, preliminary issues have been framed with regard to limitation and res judicata.


The Supreme Court found that by no stretch of imagination, it could be said that the filing of the Suit for asserting the rights of the Plaintiffs/Respondents could be said to amount to Contempt of the Court. Further, the Court held that there was no interference warranted in the Order dated 09.12.2015 of the High Court. The Appeal filed by the Appellant was dismissed. The Supreme Court further held that the Order was only restricted to maintainability of the Contempt proceedings and that this shall have no bearing on the proceedings of the Suit which would be decided on the merits.


Kartik Khandekar


The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services

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