The Supreme Court has sentenced a man, who is a resident of the United States since 2004, to six months in jail for his “contumacious conduct” and directed the Centre and the CBI to take all possible steps to secure his presence in India for undergoing the prison term.
The apex court, which had in January held the man guilty of contempt for his failure to bring back his son to India in terms of a court order, directed that he shall pay a fine of Rs 25 lakh within six months.
A bench of Justices S K Kaul and A S Oka observed that the contemnor has not shown any sign of remorse and on the contrary, the submissions made on his behalf clearly showed that he has “scant respect” for the top court’s orders.
“Considering his contumacious conduct, we propose to direct the contemnor to pay a fine of Rs 25 lakh and to undergo simple imprisonment for a period of six months for committing civil and criminal contempt,” the bench said in its verdict pronounced on May 16.
It said in case of default in the payment of the fine amount, he will have to undergo a further sentence of simple imprisonment for two months.
The apex court held the man guilty while hearing a contempt petition filed by a woman who had married him in 2007 and who alleged that he had breached the undertaking recorded in the May 2022 order passed by the court.
The court had noted that the contempt petition filed by the woman was an outcome of an unfortunate matrimonial dispute and “as it happens in every such dispute, the child is the worst sufferer”.
It had said as a result of the “breaches committed” by the man, the woman was deprived of the custody of her 12-year-old son to which she was entitled in terms of the May 2022 order.
According to the terms of settlement recorded in that order, the child, who was studying in Class 6 at that time, shall continue to live in Ajmer and complete his education up to Class 10 and thereafter, he shall be shifted to the US where his father is residing.
It was also agreed that until the child completes his education up to Class 10, he would visit Canada and the US with his father every year from June 1 to June 30.
The bench had noted in its January order that the man came to Ajmer on June 7 last year and took his son with him to Canada, but failed to bring him back to India.
In its verdict delivered last month, the bench noted that in terms of the undertaking given by the contemnor and the orders passed by the apex court, he was under an obligation to bring back the child to India on July 1 last year.
It also took note of the submissions of the contemnor’s counsel that as the child was subjected to alleged sexual abuse while he was staying with his mother in India, a forensic investigation is in progress in the US and therefore, the minor cannot be brought back to India unless the probe is over.
Referring to the contemnor’s conduct, the bench said his acts and omissions amounted to both civil and criminal contempt and this calls for a strict action against him.
While sentencing him to undergo simple imprisonment for six months, the bench said the fine of Rs 25 lakh shall be deposited with the apex court registry.
It said after the fine amount is deposited, the same be released to the petitioner (the mother of the child), who will be under an obligation to use that money only for the welfare and benefit of her minor son.
“We direct the Government of India as well as the Central Bureau of Investigation to take all possible and permissible steps to secure the presence of the contemnor in India with a view to ensure that he undergoes the sentence and pays the fine,” the bench said, while listing the case in the first week of August for reporting compliance.