Contempt Of Courts

Contempt Of Courts

Contempt of Courts could be Civil contempt or Criminal contempt:  

Civil contempt “means wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.  

Criminal contempt “means the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which-  

  • scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court ; or 
  • prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding; or  
  • interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner ; 
  • “High Court” means the High Court for a State or a Union territory, and includes the Court of the Judicial Commissioner in any Union territory. 

In India the higher judiciary has inherent powers of contempt. Purpose of the Contempt of Court, 1971 is to secure feeling of confidence of people in general and for due and proper administration of justice in the country. The Courts exercises contempt jurisdiction sparingly with care and caution. Still, the Contempt of Court law is very complex by its very nature.      

In P. N. Duda Vs. P. Shiv Shankar (AIR 1988, SC 1208 at 1213), a cabinet minister of the Government of India was exonerated though he had compared the judges of the Supreme Court to ‘anti-social elements, foreign exchange violators, bride burners and a whole horde of reactionaries who have found their haven in the Supreme Court’. The court said that the speech of the minister had to be read ‘in its proper perspective’ and, when so read, it didnot bring the administration of justice into disrepute! But in a later case (also reported)- Mohd. Zahir Khan Vs Vijai Singh and Others (AIR 1992, SC 642)- an impetuous (but insignificant) litigant, merely said in a loud voice in court: ‘Either I am anti-national or the judges are anti-national.’ He was immediately cited for contempt, pronounced guilty and sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment for one month.

Civil Contempt & Criminal Contempt can be further elaborated as follows:

  1. Civil contempt: When someone disobeys the court order or breach the undertaking given to the court. It is covered under section 2(B) of the act.
  2. Criminal Contempt: It is covered under section 2(B) of the act. the section 2(c) of the act. 

Purpose, Extent & Scope, etc. of the Contempt Proceeding:

  1. In order to be guilty of contempt an intention has to be there to act in violation of the Court’s order, that is, to consciously defy the Court. 
  2. Court has to be restricted to the prayer made in application and its scope cannot be enlarged 
  3. this power has to be cautiously exercised- It may not be used as a tool for revenge; this discretion also may not be exercised on mere allegations. 
  4. The purpose of the Contempt of Courts Act is securing a feeling of confidence amongst people and for due and proper administration of justice, the power should be exercised with utmost care and caution and sparingly only in the larger interest of the society. 
  5. Law of contempt primarily, intended to maintain dignity of court. This jurisdiction is invoked when offending acts are intentional and/or motivated and/ or attempt has been made to earn small gains at the cost of hurting system of administration of justice. 
  6. Wilful conduct is the primacy and basic ingredient of the offence of contempt and is sine qua non for bringing home imputation of guilt The captioned subject is complex by its very nature. We, therefore, always encourage our visitors & Clients to seek an independent legal advice by our empaneled lawyers. In such Cases, our lawyers devise most appropriate legal recourse for our Clients after examining the related provisions of law, i.e Even otherwise, the question as to how to apply the laws, judgments and citations is rather more complex, as it involves a thorough examination of substantial laws, procedural laws and Court precedents in a given set of facts and circumstances. 

The contempt petition are filed by the petitioner under Sections 10 and 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1961 read with Article 215 of the Constitution of India, seeking a direction to punish respondent(s) for wilful disobedience of the undertakings in respect of a settlement under Order 23 Rule 3 CPC as also for violation of Judicial orders, whereby, in view of the settlement, a compromise decree has been passed.

Substantial Questions Of Law

  • Appeal
  • Extent, Scope, & Purpose of the Contempt Proceedings
  • Quashing Of FIR
  • Quashing Of Private Complaint.

[Related Legal Provisions]

Contempt Of Court Act, 1971

[Substantial Legal Provisions Governing The Contempt of Court]

The Contempt of Court Proceeding are governed by the Contempt of Court, 1971. When it comes to the application and invocation of the Contempt of Court, 1971, it got to be read with the Article-215 of the Constitution of India. Relevant provisions of law, as contained in the Contempt of Court Act and the Constitution of India are given hereinunder:

  • Section-2: Definitions 
  • Section-10: Power of High Court to punish contempt of subordinate courts 
  • Section-12: Punishment for contempt of court 
  • Section-16: Contempt by judge, magistrate or other person acting judicially. 
  • Section-17: Procedure after cognizance. 
  • Section-18: Hearing of cases of criminal contempt to be by Benches. 
  • Section-19: Appeals 
  • Section-20: Limitation for actions for contempt.    

Constitution of India,1950

Article-215- High Courts to be courts of record.- Every High Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.

Article-129- Supreme Court to be a court of record: The Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.

Article-142- Enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court and unless as to discovery, etc:

(1) The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or orders so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe.

(2) Subject to the provisions of any law made in this behalf by Parliament, the Supreme Court shall, as respects the whole of the territory of India, have all and every power to make any order for the purpose of securing the attendance of any person, the discovery or production of any documents, or the investigation or punishment of any contempt of itself.

Competent Courts & Fora

  • High Courts of various States
  • Supreme Court Of India.

Related Links

  • Bare Acts- Statutes.
  • Judgments Supreme Court Of India & Judgments High Courts Of Indian States.

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