Contempt of Court
Polity & Governance
31st Jan, 2019
- The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on a contempt petition which alleged that the central bank did not provide information sought about the inspection reports of some banks.
- The contempt notice also alleges that information has not been shared regarding irregularities in the case of Sahara Group of companies under the transparency law.
More on news
- A bench headed by Justice Nageshwar Rao issued the notice on a petition filed by a Mumbai resident who contended that the RBI had refused to part with the sought information despite apex court rulings on the issue.
- The petitioner has contended that he had sought information under the RTI Act in December 2015 like copies of inspection reports of ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and SBI.
- The petitioner has also sought files regarding irregularities detected by RBI in the case of Sahara Group of companies 2011.
- The petition recalled the Supreme Court ruling in a case that RBI is clearly not in any fiduciary relationship with any bank. It has no legal duty to maximise the benefit of any public sector or private sector bank and thus there is no relationship of trust between them.
- RBI ought to act with transparency and not hide information that might embarrass individual banks. It is bound to comply with the provisions of the RTI Act and disclose the information.
What is contempt of Court?
- As per the Contempt of Courts Act 1971, contempt refers to the offence of showing disrespect to the dignity or authority of a court. 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 any act or publication which: (i) ‘scandalises’ the court, or (ii) prejudices any judicial proceeding, or (iii) interferes with the administration of justice in any other manner.
- ‘Scandalising the Court’ broadly refers to statements or publications which have the effect of undermining public confidence in the judiciary.
What is the source of Contempt?
- The superior courts (Supreme Court and High Courts) derive their contempt powers from the Constitution. The Act only outlines the procedure in relation to investigation and punishment for contempt.
- Therefore, deletion of the offence from the Act will not impact the inherent constitutional powers of the superior courts to punish anyone for its contempt. These powers will continue to remain, independent of the 1971 Act.
- Bar Association vs. Union of India case, the Supreme Court dwelled into the constitutional powers vested in it under Article 129 read with Article 142(2) of the Constitution of India and the power of the High Court under Article 215 of the Constitution to punish for contempt.
- According to Supreme Court, no act of Parliament can take away the inherent jurisdiction of the Court of Record to punish for contempt and the Parliament’s power of legislation on the subject cannot, therefore, be so exercised as to stultify the status and dignity of the Supreme Court.
Some important articles of Indian Constitution
- Article 129: 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.
- 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
- 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.