contempt-of-court-coc

Context: Recently, Attorney-General of India declined consent to initiate contempt proceedings against Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister.

More on the news:

  • Earlier the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh had written to the CJI S.A. Bobde, alleging the Andhra Pradesh HC was being used to destabilise and topple democratically elected government.
  • Following this, a lawyer had written a letter to AG seeking his consent to initiate contempt proceedings against Reddy and his advisor.

About Contempt of Court:

  • It refers to the offence of showing disrespect to the dignity or authority of a court.
  • The objective is to safeguard the interests of the public if the authority of the Court is denigrated and public confidence in the administration of justice is weakened or eroded.
  • The Supreme Court and High Courts derive their contempt powers from the Constitution.
    • Articles 129 and 215 of the Constitution of India empowers the Supreme Court and High Court respectively to punish people for their respective contempt.
    • Article 19: The Constitution also includes contempt of court as a reasonable restriction to the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19.
  • The Contempt of Court Act, 1971, outlines the procedure in relation to investigation and punishment for contempt.
    • Section 10 of the act defines the power of the High Court to punish contempts of its subordinate courts.
  • The Act divides contempt into:
    • Civil contempt: It refers to the willful disobedience of an order of any court.
    • Criminal contempt: It includes any act or publication which: Scandalises the court (broadly refers to statements or publications which have the effect of undermining public confidence in the judiciary), Prejudices any judicial proceeding, Interferes with the administration of justice in any other manner.

Contempt of Court

Points in Favour 

Against

  • Still high number of Contempt Cases.
  • Upholding Judiciary’s Reputation.
  • Constitutional backing for Contempt Power.
  • The Contempt of Court Act, 1971 provide adequate safeguards
  • Against Civil Liberties.
  • Wide Scope of Contempt.
  • Obsolete in foreign democracies. For example, England abolished the offence of “scandalising the court” in 2013.

 

Way ahead:

  • Restrict to civil contempt (Law Commission of India): Though, there is a need to retain the provision regarding the contempt of courts, the definition of contempt in the Contempt of Court Act should be restricted to civil contempt.
  • Revisit the law: In the era of social media, there is the need to revisit the law on criminal contempt.

Image Source: ProBono India
Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/a-g-declines-consent-for-contempt-proceedings-against-ap-cm-aide/article33003865.ece