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Contempt of Court

  • Published
    17th Sep, 2022
Context

The Madras High Court recently found activist and YouTuber A Shankar, popularly known as ‘Savukku’ Shankar, guilty of criminal contempt and sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment for his remarks about the higher judiciary.

About

What is Contempt of Court?

  • The term ‘Contempt of Court’ is a generic term descriptive of conduct in relation to particular proceedings in a court of law which tends to undermine that system or to inhibit citizens from availing themselves of it for the settlement of their disputes.
  • In Simple words, Contempt of Court can be easily understood as when we are disrespectful or disobedience towards the court of law which means that we wilfully fail to obey the court order or disrespect the legal authorities. 
  • According to the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, contempt of court can either be civil contempt or criminal contempt. 
    • Civil Contempt means wilful disobedience of any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court, or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
    • Criminal contempt, on the other hand, 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
  1. scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court; or
  2. prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding; or
  3. Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.
  • Punishment: Contempt of court may be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with a fine of maximum Rs 2,000, or with both, provided that the accused may be discharged or the punishment awarded may be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court.

Essentials of Contempt of Court:

Contempt of Court also has certain essentials and these are as follows:

  • Disobedience to any type of court proceedings, its orders, judgment, decree, etc should be done ‘willfully’in case of Civil Contempt.
  • In Criminal Contempt ‘publication’is the most important thing and this publication can be either spoken or written, or by words, or by signs, or by visible representation.
  • The court should make a ‘valid order’and this order should be in ‘knowledge’ of the respondent.
  • The action of contemnor should be deliberate and also it should be clearly disregard of the court’s order.

These essentials should be fulfilled while making someone accused of Contempt of Court.

Provision in Indian Constitution:

There are two Articles in the Constitution of India which talk about the Contempt of Court and these are Article 129 and Article 142(2).

Article 129

  • Article 129 says that the Supreme Court shall be the ‘Court of Record’ and it has all the powers of such courts including the power to punish for contempt of itself.
  • The ‘Court of Record’ means a Court having its acts and proceedings registered for everlasting memory or that memory which has no end and as evidence or proof.
  • The truth of these records cannot be questioned and also these records are treated as a higher authority. And anything stated against the truth of these records comprised Contempt of Court.

Article 142(2)

  • When any law is made by the Parliament on the provisions mentioned in clause 1 of this Article, the Supreme Court has all the power to make an order for securing any person’s attendance, production of any documents or has the power to give punishment to anyone for its contempt.
  • This also does not mean that the Supreme Court can do anything against the right of personal liberty if it has the power to punish for Contempt of Court. 
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