CONTEMPT OF COURT
The term contempt of court is not very familiar with every single individual residing in and around the country. The word contempt means the act of despising that is to say the state of mind of one who despises lack of respect, reverence of something. Henceforth contempt of court means in simple form to disrespect the court and disobey its rules and cause interruption in its proceedings. Contempt of court often referred to simply as contempt is the offence of being disobedient to or disrespectful towards a court of law and its officers in the form of behaviour that opposes or defies the authority, justice and dignity of the court.
Contempt of court in its simple literal meaning is disgrace or scorn or disobedience to any court of law. It is a behaviour or wrongdoing that conflicts with or challenges the authority, integrity and superiority of the court. Under section 2(a) of the contempt of court act of 1971 defines contempt of court as civil contempt or criminal contempt. The Supreme Court has the sole power and authority and shall be the court of record that will have all the powers of such punishment that for contempt itself.
Contempt are stated broadly to fall into two groups namely, civil contempt and criminal contempt. Civil contempt is a contempt which involves a private injury occasioned by disobedience to the judgments, order or another process of the court. On the other hand, criminal contempt is right from their inception in the nature of offences.
CIVIL CONTEMPT- Under section 2(b) of the contempt of courts act of 1971, civil contempt has been defined as wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other processes of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court. The ingredients to the civil contempt are that any disobedience or breach must be done wilfully that is done by will, the disobedience must be deliberate and intentional act or omission which must be understood in contrast with the act done accidentally, the making of valid court order, knowledge of the order by respondent, the ability of the respondent to render compliance and it excludes casual, accidental, bona fide or unintentional acts or genuine inability to comply with the terms of the order. Case laws relating to contempt of courts are as follows:-
- Anil Ratan Sarkar VS Hirak Ghosh, AIR 2002 SC 1405.
- Ashok Paper Kamagar Union VS Dharam Godha, AIR 2004 SC 105.
- State of Maharashtra VS Ishwar Piraji Kalpatri 1933 Cr L.J.726.
- Santosh Kumar Srivastava VS M.D. U.P. Rajkaiya Nirman Ltd 2001 AII.L.J. 776.
CRIMINAL CONTEMPT- Under section 2(c) of the contempt of courts act of 1971, criminal contempt has been defined as the publication of any matter or the doing of any act whatsoever which scandalises or trends 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 proceedings or interferes or tends to interfere with or obstructs or tends to obstructs the administration of justice in any other manner. It is not necessary for the contempt that the act must have been done either in the face of the court or just in front of it. The word spoken or otherwise or published or acts done might be outside the court but the same must be intended to scandalise or obstruct the fair administration of justice and are punishable as criminal contempt of the court. Case laws relating to the criminal contempt are as follows:-
- Hari Singh Nagra VS Kapil Sibal 2011 Cr. L. J. 102 at P.108.
- Ananta Lal Singh VS Alfred Henry Watson, AIR 1931 Cal 257.
A contempt of court may be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees or with both. Provided that this punishment is not imposed unless the court is satisfied that the contempt is of such a nature that is substantially interferes or tends substantially to interfere with the due course of justice. The contempt of court concerns the fair administration of justice with the intent to punish acts hurting the dignity and authority of the courts. The charge to safeguard the majesty of the judiciary in India was accredited to the judiciary itself by arming it with contempt jurisdiction.
Generally contempt of court does not go on record. The court needs contempt powers to ensure their orders are implemented and to sustain the independent nature of the judiciary itself.
Contempt of court common and in general refers to the conducts that disobey or disrespects or insults the authority or dignity of a court. The law commission of India held that there is a need to retain the provision regarding the contempt of courts. However, it also recommended the definition of contempt in the contempt of court act should be restricted to civil contempt that is wilful disobedience of judgments of the court. Further, in the era of social media, besides the need to revisit the law on criminal contempt even the test for contempt needs to be evaluated.
Thank You. JAI HIND.
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