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Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 An Analysis

An Act to define and limit the powers of certain courts in punishing contempt of courts and to regulate their procedure in relation thereto.

Legal History of Contempt of Courts

Prior to contempt of courts act 1926 the power of the court to punish for contempt was felt to be uncontrolled power which was no doubt remedied by the Act of 1926 and the amending Act 1937. Subsequently a committee was appointed to examine the law pertaining to contempt of courts and as a result the present act was enacted. 

Types of Contempt

As per Section 2(9) contempt of courts means civil contempt and criminal contempt.

As per section 2(b) of the Act Civil Contempt means:
Wilful disobedience of any judgement, decree, direction order writ or other processes of court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
Accordingly section 2(c) of the Act criminal contempt means: The publication whether by words spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which;

i) Scandalizes or trends to scandalize or lowers or tends to lower the authority of any court or prejudice or interfere or trends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding or interferes or trends to interfere with or obstructs or trends to obstruct administration of justice in any other manner.  Proceedings under contempt of courts act are summary in nature.  Contempt of court is not an offence within the meaning of section 4(2) of Cr. P.C. Merits of the matter need not be gone into a contempt proceeding. (V.G. Peterson v. O.V Foreces) AIR 1963 SC 692.

Aim of Contempt Proceedings:
The aim is to deter men from offering any indignities to a court of justice. Ramakrishna Reddy v. State of Madras AIR 1952 SC 149.

Kinds of Contempt

There are many kinds of contempt, the main forms of contempt are:
  1. Insult to Judges.
  2. Attack upon judge proceedings.
  3. Comment on pending proceedings with tendency to prejudice fair trial obstruction to officers of courts, witnesses in the parties.
  4. Abusing the process of the court.
  5. Breach of duty by officers connected with the court and scandalizing the judges of the courts.

The following are certain examples of contempt with decided important case laws:

  1. Stay of proceedings disobeyed:  When the superior courts order staying proceedings is disobeyed by the inferior court the later court commits contempt of court. Bardakanta Misra v. Bhimsel Dixit AIR 1972 SC 2466
     
  2. Speeches or Writings misrepresenting Court proceedings:  Speeches or Writings misrepresenting the proceedings of the court or prejudicing the public or against a party or involving reflections on parties to a proceeding amount to contempt of Court. Judge commenting in press about pending case. Where a sessions Judge Comments in press and television about the pending case it will amount to contempt of court. Subash Chand v. S.M. Agarw. 1984 Cr. L. J. 481 (Delhi).
     
  3. Shouting at Court: By shouting at the court is belittling the dignities of the court which cannot ever be permitted as that would hear a dwindling of the faith of the public in affectionless of the system itself. It is unwholesome one for any member of the bar to lose his temper and bring about a situation in the public court which can afford justifiable interference to be made of the action being voluntary and intended at lowering the prestige of judiciary. State of A. P. v. Saetharamaiah 1996 (2) ALT 992.
     
  4. Advocate raising voice: An advocate raising voice in High pitch and annoying magistrate even after waning will amount to contempt of court. Mohamed Ali v. Prasanna AIR 1995 SC 454
     
  5. Forging order of court.
    1. Threatening writ petitioners.
    2. Police Officer obstructing execution of decree.
    3. Jail superintendent not releasing the accused in spite of the order of the court.
    4. Filing of false affidavit will amount to criminal contempt. Afzal v. State of Haryana AIR 1996 SC 2326.
Certain acts will not amount to contempt of court they are as follows Under Section-7 a person shall not be guilty of contempt of court for publishing fair and accurate report of a judicial proceeding or any state thereof.

Fair Criticism
It is open to anyone to express fair reasonable and legitimate criticism of any act or conduct of a judge in his judicial capacity even to make a proper and fair comment on any decision given by him. Innocent publication and distribution of matter: Fair reporting regarding disposal of case and judgement of journalists. Rama Oayal Markaraha v. State of M.P. AIR 1978 SC 921.
Punishment for Contempt of Court Contempt of court may be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extent to 6 months or with time which may extend to Rs. 2000/- or with both. That the accused may be discharged or the punishment awarded may be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court.

Limitation for actions for Contempt

No court shall initiate any proceedings of contempt either on its own motion or otherwise after the expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the contempt have been committed.
  1. Jagadish  singh and others v. T.C.Sharma.
  2. Babulal v. Subash Jain.
  3. Balaswaroopsoni v. Babulal soni.
  4. Indure Lt v. Deo Raj Gupta.
  5. Commissioner of Civil supplies and Consumer Protection Department v. Balakrishnan.
  6. A.Banumurthy v. Bar Council of Andhra Pradesh
  7. Dr.D.V.P.Raja v. Jayabalan.
  8. G.M.Hirmani v. Ishwarappa.
  9. N.S.(Appellant) v. N.V.(Respondent).
  10. P.R.(Complainant) v. V.I.(Respondent).
  11. Ashok kumar yadhav v. Bar council of India 19/1/2015.
  12. C. Ravichandran Iyer v. Justice A.M.Bhatterjee (Disciplinary power of the bar council on conduct of the judge).
  13. Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India and others 17th April 1998.
  14. An Advocate v. Bar Council of India and another 0n 29th September 1998.
  15. D.P.Chadha v. Tiriyugi Narain Mishra and others 5th December 2000.
     

Selected cases relating to Professional misconduct and contempt of court

  1. Pawan Kumar Sharma v. Gurdial Singh (AIR 1999 SC 98)
  2. Mahabir Prasad Singh v. M.s Jacks Aviation Pvt.Ltd. (AIR 1999 SC 287)
  3. Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India ( AIR 1998 SC 1895)
  4. P.D.Gupta v. Ramamurthy (AIR 1998 SC 283)
  5. Robtas Singh v. Commissioner Agra Division. (AIR 1997 SC 278)
  6. Harish Chander Singh v. S.N.Tripathi. (AIR 1997 SC 879)
  7. Hikmatali Khan v. Iswar Prasad Aiye. (AIR 1997 SC 864)
  8. Prahalad Saran Gupta v. Bar Council of India (AIR 1997 SC 1338)
  9. Dr.Haniraj L Chusani v. Bar Council of Maharashtra ( AIR 1996 SC 1708)
  10. In re Saxena and U.Saxena v. Hon’ble Chief Justice of India (AIR 1996 SC 2491)
  11. Sambhu Ram Yadhav v. Hanuman Das Khatry (2001 16 SCC 165).
  12. B.M.Verma v. Uttarkhand Regulatory Commission Appeal No.156 of 2007.
  13. R.K.Anand v. Registrar of Delhi High Court (2009  85 SCC 106).
  14. Harish Uppal v. Union of India 2003 (1) ACC MR (SC) 1169.
  15. J.S. Jadhav Mustafa v. Haji Mohammed Yusuf  (AIR 1993 SC 1608).

    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Mohd Aqib Aslam

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