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PIERIS et al. v. FERNANDO.
D. C., Colombo, 6,580.
Contempt of court—Neglect to comply with order drawn up informally and madeultra vires.
In an action for the recovery of certain jewellery, it being found, afterevidenoe of both parties had been heard, that the plaintiff owed acertain anm of money to the defendant, who was in possession of thejewellery, the District Judge, without entering a decree in favour ofeither party, recorded his opinion that “ the most equitable course is to“ order the plaintiff to bring into Court the sum of Rs. 91 within fourteen“ days, and the defendant to bring into Court jewellery also within“ fourteen days, to abide the further order and decree of this Court.”No formal order was drawn up—
Held, that this order was irregular and ultra triree, and that a disobe-dience of it by defendant did not justify his conviction as fora contemptof court.
rpHE facts of the case are sufficiently set forth in the judgmentof the Chief Justice.
Bohbeb, C.J. 20th September, 1895. Bonbbr, C.J.—
In this case the appellant was charged with contempt of courtand found guilty by Mr. Templer, Acting District Judge ofColombo, and sentenced to simple imprisonment for a term of sixmonths, or until his contempt was purged by producing certainarticles in Court. The contempt of which the appellant was foundguilty was disobedience of the direction of the Court as to bringingcertain articles into Court within fourteen days from the date of thedirection.
The action was an action for the recovery of certain jewellery.At the conclusion of the trial, the Acting District Judge did notmake any decree either in favour of plaintiff or defendant. Hefound that the plaintiff owed the defendant a sum of Rs. 91,and he Btated that had this money been brought into Court by theplaintiff he would have had no difficulty^ framing his judg-ment so as not to affect the legal rights of the parties. “ This“ however," he proceeded, “ has not been done; accordingly I think“ the most equitable course is to order the plaintiff to bring into
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“ Court the stun of Re. 91 within fourteen days, and the defendantUM.
“ to hiring in the jewellery into Court also within fourteen days, to 3oJ*~m*,r *>■“abide the farther order and decree of this Court thereon Boras, OJ.
respectively.” No formal order was drawn up; but on thedefendant’s neglect to comply with this order the Acting DistrictJudge, on his own motion, charged the defendant with contemptof Court, and found him guilty and sentenced him as beforementioned.
It appears to me that the order that was made was ultra vires.
It was an order not asked for by plaintiff, and I do not understandhow it came to be made. Of course in some cases, where adefendant admits the disputed property to be in his hands, theCourt, in order to secure the preservation of the property, mayorder it to be brought into Court and kept in medio until thequestion as to who is entitled to it be determined ; but in this casethe trial had been held, the evidence of both parties had beenheard, and the Judge was in a position to decide ss to whetherthe claim of the plaintiff had been proved or not. If he thoughtthat claim had been proved, he ought to have made a decree forthe delivery of the property. If he thought that the plaintiffwas indebted to the defendant, he might have made a cross decreein favour of the defendant. It seems to me that the order thatwas made was irregular, and that therefore the defendant oughtnot to have been sent to jail for disobedience of it.
A very serious question was raised in the course of theargument as to the effect of section 59 of Ordinance No. 1 of1889 on the power of District Courts to deal with persons dis-obeying their orders, which, however, it is not necessary on thepresent occasion to decide.
Withers, J., agreed.
PIERIS et al. v. FERNANDO