Concerns for the judiciary:
- That the Supreme Court has allowed these provisions to remain on India’s books ought to tell us that it records in protecting personal liberty is acclaimed without reason.
- In Arnab Goswami vs State of Maharashtra, the judgment noted: “Our courts must ensure that they continue to remain the first line of defence against the deprivation of the liberty of citizens.
What is contempt of court?
- Contempt of court, as a concept that seeks to protect judicial institutions from motivated attacks and unwarranted criticism, and as a legal mechanism to punish those who lower its authority, is back in the news in India.
- Contempt of court is an act of disrespect or disobedience towards a judge or court’s officers or interference with its orderly process.
- In case of India, under Section 2(a) of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 defines contempt of court as civil contempt or criminal contempt, it is generally felt that the existing law relating to contempt of courts is somewhat uncertain, undefined and unsatisfactory.
The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971
- The Law Commission of India (Chair: Justice B.S. Chauhan) submitted its report on 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.
Landmark Contempt Judgments
1) Supreme Court Bar Association vs Union Of India & Anr
In this case, the Judge held that procedural aspect for Contempt of Court may still be prescribed by the Parliament so that it could be applicable in the Supreme Court and the High Court. This means that Section 12(1) of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 which prescribed a maximum fine of Rs. 5000 and imprisonment for a term of six months shall be applicable in this case.
2) Zahira Habibullah Sheikh & Anr vs State Of Gujarat & Ors
It was held in this case that the punishment that is given for contempt in the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 shall only be applicable to the High Court but for Supreme Court, it acts as a guide. The judgment that was given was not accompanied by rationality; this was worrisome because the Supreme Court has been given great powers that the drafters of the Indian Constitution has also not given.
- The uncertainty in Supreme Court judgment is coupled with the prevailing distrust which flows from the Supreme Court in the values of personal liberty, of free thought and expression, what we get is a complete erasure of the rule of law.
- The accused in the defamation cases are relying on penal provisions under IPC and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, that supersedes the Vishakha Guidelines on sexual harassment need to address.
Discuss the contempt of court” concept in the light of recent defamation cases. In view of the above, discuss the constitutional validity and competency of the defamation cases in India.