UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEMPT POWERS OF COURT

Author: swati goyal

College: Panjab University, Chandigarh.



Concept of Contempt of Court

In various Countries , Judiciary is considered as a last hope when a citizen fails to get justice anywhere . In Indian Judiciary, Supreme Court is the epitome as it provide justice and remedy to aggrieved parties. Therefore any kind of disobedience towards judges or destruction against implementation of rules can be punished . Moreover in order to maintain sancity of judiciary , the courts are empowered to take action against those who done the “CONTEMPT OF COURT”.


Power of Contempt of court

Presently Supreme court and high court are bestowed with the powers to punish for contempt of court. The Act of 1971, allows the High Court to punish for the contempt of subordinate court. Article 19(1)(a) of our Indian Constitution gives the right of freedom of speech and expression to all citizens. But Article 129 and 215 give the power of Contempt of Court to the higher judiciary, The power to punish the contempt is specifically provided with the caveat that Parliament may legislate on how it is to be investigated and punished. Article 129 of the constitution of India grants Supreme Court the power to punish the contempt of itself. In Article 142(2) it enables the Supreme Court to investigate and punish any person for its contempt, and Article 215 grants every High Courts the power to punish for contempt of itself.


Kinds of Contempt of Court and punishment

The law classifies contempt as civil and criminal. Civil Contempt means willful disobedience of 1 any judgement , decree, direction , order, writ, other process of a court or willful breach of an undertaking given to a court. Criminal Contempt means the publication. Which tends to scandalize or lower the authority of court , ii. Prejudice or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceedings and tends to obstruct the administration of justice , in any other manner. But it should be kept in mind that, Fair and accurate reporting of judicial proceedings will not amount to contempt of court, nor is any judicial after a case is heard and disposed of. The Supreme Court and High courts have the power to punish for Contempt of court, either with simple imprisonment for a term up to six months or with fine up to Rs. 2000 or with both.


Defence against contempt charge

There are a number of enigmas within the law of contempt i.There’s no defence of truth in a contempt case as is offered in defamation case. ii. Law of contempt even holds the media liable for coverage of the contempt committed by another person. It is extensive that if it is the duty of the media to convey data to individuals and such right to convey data is concomitant of the right to freedom of the press, then why should media be guilty of performing its duty? The law that truth is not any defence is excessive restriction on the liberty of speech and expression. Similarly, the law that media is additionally liable is on the one hand restriction on people’s right to data and on the opposite hand excessive restriction on media's right to convey data . Law encompasses a scope for development and this can be evident from the actual fact that law is amended persistently, that the Supreme Court had overruled its own Judgment, issued tips persistently. New Acts are passed from time to time by Parliament and therefore the basis for all this can be modification of circumstances and recognition of a new cause and failure of existing law. For example law developed itself from the slender lanes of 'locus standi' to the open fields of Public Interest proceedings.


Cases related to Contempt of Court

In the light of contempt power of court , a Five-Judge bench of the Supreme Court in the case Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India¹ , it was held that the power of court to punish for contempt though wide yet limited and could not be expanded to include the power to determine whether an advocate was also guilty for “professional misconduct” which is prescribed under the Advocate Act ,1961 Further it was stated that under Article 129 only cause or matters was regarding as commission of contempt of court not the professional misconduct. Overruling in Re v. Vinay Chandra Mishra , Supreme court held that punishment for established contempt of court committed by an advocate cannot be debar him from the practice by suspending his licence .


Recent Verdict of Supreme Court on Prashant Bhushan’s contempt case.

In Re Prashant Bhushan and Ors.,three –judge bench of the Supreme Court on July 22, issued a call to arms and declared that two tweets by advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan were prima facie contemptuous. Court held that Bhushan’s statements did not amount to fair criticism of judicial functioning. Subsequently, the bench held Bhushan guilty on August 14, of making “scandalous” comments against the institution of the Supreme Court.


Conclusion

There can be no doubt that the purpose of contempt of jurisdiction is to uphold the majesty and dignity of law courts and their image in the mind of the public is no way whittled down. If by contumacious words or writings the common man is lead to lose his respect for judge acting in the discharge of his judicial duties, then the confidence reposed in the courts us rudely shaken and the offender needs to be punished. In essence of law of contempt is the protector of the seat of justice more than the person sitting of the judge sitting in that seat.



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