Madras High Court Reiterates the Doctrine of Merger

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In the case of All India Union Bank Officer vs Brajeshwar Sharma, a Contempt Petition filed under Section 11 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 for deliberately and willfully disobeying the final order of Madras High Court. On September 4th, 2020, The Court closed the petition and held it un-maintainable based on the doctrine of merger 

Facts of the Case

A single-Judge Bench of the High Court passed an order on 06.02.2020 against which the respondent moved for the writ appeal in front of a division bench. The division bench didn’t find any infirmity in the order delivered by the single judge but modified it and allowed the appeal.

Against this appeal, the respondent filed the contempt petition for deliberately and willfully disobeying the final order of Madras High Court. 

Arguments on Both Sides

The counsel appearing on either side raised various contentions touching upon the purport of the order passed by this Court and which was subsequently modified by the Division Bench while passing final orders 

This petitioner filed the petition in front of a single judge bench, i.e. Justice N. Anand Venkatesh. Justice Venkatesh didn’t go on to find the answers to the contentions raised on both the sides of the case since the very maintainability of the contempt petition was in question.

Court’s Observation

The court took into account the doctrine of merger and said that “Once an order has been passed in the Writ Appeal and the order passed by the Single Judge is modified and the Writ Appeal is partly allowed, the order of the Single Judge merges with the order passed in the Writ Appeal”

The court referred to the judgments of Kunhayammed v. State of Kerala, (2000) 6 SCC 359 page 370 and Shanthi v. T.D. Vishwanathan, (2019) 11 SCC 419 and further reiterated the Doctrine of Merger. 

According to the above-mentioned judgments, 

  1. The logic underlying the doctrine of merger is that there cannot be more than one decree or operative orders governing the same subject matter at a given point of time.
  2. When a decree or order passed by the court, authority, or any tribunal is put in front of a superior authority for deciding its validity or maintainability and the superior court, authority or tribunal sets aside the order of the lower court, reverses it, confirms it, modifies it or merges it with its own order, it is the decree or order of the superior court, tribunal or authority which is the final, binding and operative decree. 

Court’s Order

The Court said that since the order of the Single Judge has merged with the order passed by the Division Bench in the Writ Appeal, the contempt petition is not maintainable. The court commented that “If the petitioner feels that the order has been violated or disobeyed, a Contempt Petition can be maintained only before the Division Bench and not before the Single Judge”.


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