Is it the time to revisit Contempt of Court power?

By admin March 20, 2019 17:24

Other Incidents

  • In 2016, the Supreme Court issued a contempt notice against one of its own former judges, Justice Markandey Katju.
  • The Supreme Court bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi in February 2019 held CBI Additional Director M Nageswara Rao guilty of contempt of court.
  • Recently Supreme court held that Contempt of Court is not perceived contempt of an individual, howsoever high he may be. The Contempt Petition filed by the Attorney General of India against Shri Prashant Bhushan, is devoid of any substance.

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What is Contempt of Court? It is the offense of being disobedient to or disrespectful toward a court of law and its officers in the form of behavior that opposes or defies the authority, justice and dignity of the court. Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

  • The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 is one of the most powerful statutes in the country. It gives the constitutional courts wide powers to restrict an individual’s fundamental right to personal liberty for “scandalising the court” or for “wilful disobedience” of any judgment, writ, direction or order.
  • The Act divides contempt into civil and criminal contempt.
  • Civil contempt refers to the wilful disobedience of an order of any court.
  • Criminal contempt includes 1. Restrictions on writings or speeches affecting matters pending in the court 2. Punishment for defiance of Court Orders 3. Punishment for Scandalous attacks on judges or the court
  • ‘Scandalising the Court’ broadly refers to statements or publications which have the effect of undermining public confidence in the judiciary.

Who has the power to issue Contempt of Court notice?

  • Under Article 129 and Article 215 of Indian Constitution, Supreme Court and High Court of India respectively has the power to punish for contempt of itself.
  • High Court can also issue it if contempt of court is done on lower courts.

Issues related to Contempt of Court

  • Against Right to Speech given under Article 19 (1)(a).
  • Most of the cases are of civil nature thus criminal contempt must be removed.
  • The Act is made by parliament while it is an inherent jurisdiction of Supreme Court under article 142 of Indian Constitution.
  • Cases where contempt of an individual is taken as contempt of court
  • U.S. do not have the power to punish anyone for scandalising the court. And In England it is used sparingly.
  • Scandalising the court was an offence in colonial India which should be removed now.

Law Commission Report on Contempt of Court

  • The report examined whether the definition of contempt in the Act should be restricted to civil contempt, i.e., wilful disobedience of judgments of court. The Commission concluded that there was no requirement to amend the Act

Conclusion When the Constitution was enacted in independent India, contempt of court was made an exception to the right to free speech. Of course, courts must have powers to preserve the dignity and decorum of day-to-day proceedings. The judge must have the power to remove that person from court and to penalise him so as to prevent this from happening again. But wild, scurrilous abuse heaped on judges on blogs or social media websites are perhaps best left ignored.

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By admin March 20, 2019 17:24