SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT ON CONTEMPT OF COURT

INTRODUCTION

“An appeal is when you ask one court to show its contempt for another court.”

— Finley Peter Dunne”

We all know that the legal profession was regarded as one of the most prestigious in the whole globe, not just in India. In India, a career that aids in the creation and good administration of law is known as the legal profession. Because it defends and upholds the law, this profession is often known as the noble profession. As a result, it is now our responsibility to protect the social norm (the Indian Constitution). In the legal profession, courts and judges are vital to delivering justice. The integrity and prestige of the judicial system must thus be preserved by society. A certain level of respect should be shown toward the judges and the courts. In administering justice, the legal system becomes unbalanced if we are unable to preserve its impartiality. Lower courts have to abide by the ruling made by the highest court. It is necessary to denounce any efforts done to lower the court’s stature in society. As a result, the idea of “contempt of court” is explained. The number of instances involving “contempt of court” is significant and growing yearly. In another instance involving contempt of court, the highest court rendered a very significant decision. A broad definition of contempt of court includes overtly threatening judges, obstructing the administration of justice, and disobeying court instructions. So, these were the reasons for the evolving concept of “contempt of court in India”.

CONTEMPT OF COURT AND ITS HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

How do you define contempt, first of all? The Latin word contemptuous, which translates to “scorn,” is where the term contempt comes from. A person or object is considered to be contemptible if they are thought to be worthless or undeserving of any respect. The act of disrespecting a court, disobeying its orders, or interfering with its orderly process is known as “contempt of court”. “A general phrase used to describe behavior related to specific legal processes in a court of law that tries to undermine that system or discourages people from using it to resolve their issues is contempt of court.” In his ruling in the matter of “Attorney-General v. Times Newspapers Ltd[1]” was described by Lord Diplock. The origin of “contempt of court” in India was developed from the Sanyal committee report which examines how India’s Law of Contempt has evolved historically.

Before the passage of the “Indian Contempt of Court Act”, there were no explicit remedies for the “Contempt of Court Act in 1952”[2], but these measures are now in place thanks to this legislation. Except for Jammu & Kashmir, this Act applies to all of India. The High Court is empowered by this Act to impose sanctions for contempt of the lower court. In the states of Rajasthan and Saurashtra, the “Contempt of Court Act, 1926”[3], which was in effect at the time, has been repealed by this Act. Nevertheless, the entire country of Bangladesh was covered by this Act. It might be unexpected to learn that despite these Acts having been established earlier, they still do not define the term “Contempt”. This legislation, which was expanded to cover all of India in 1971, provides a precise meaning of “contempt of court” that the preceding act of the contempt of court lacked. “Civil contempt and criminal contempt are defined under section 2(a) of the contempt of court act,1971.”[4]A legal action that violates the authority of the court is referred to as “civil contempt of court”. A person who deliberately disobeys a court’s order, decree, directive, judgment, or writ is considered to be in civil contempt. It is also considered to be in contempt when a person willfully breaches commitments made to a court. Section 2(b) defines “civil contempt”.[5] Section 2(c) defines “criminal contempt”. Publishing of any act that compromises the integrity of the judiciary, diminishes its authority, taints or impedes the fair conduct of any legal processes, or impedes or obstructs the administration of justice. Such an act may be published verbally, in writing, through sign language, or other visual means referred to as “criminal contempt”.[6] The “punishment for contempt of court is defined under section 12 of the contempt of court act,1971”[7] and penalized with a fine that can reach 2,000 rupees, with a simple sentence of up to six months in jail, or with both of these penalties options. The only courts with the capacity to penalize someone for “contempt of court” offenses are the Supreme Court and the High Court. Subordinate courts lack this jurisdiction.”[8]

SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT ON CONTEMPT OF COURT

The supreme court issued several significant rulings on the subject of judicial contempt. Due to the disruption of the court’s integrity and dignity, there has been an increase in instances involving contempt of court in recent years. Some landmark judgments are:-

  • Supreme Court Bar Association vs Union Of India & Anr[9]

In this instance, there was disagreement about the judge’s decision to suspend or not suspend the attorney. The judge ruled that the High Court and the Supreme Court could both use the contempt of court procedure that was previously specified by Parliament. The petitioner’s main contention was that the Supreme Court lacked the authority to suspend an advocate from practicing under the “Advocates Act of 1971” since only the State Bar Council or the Bar Council of India had such authority. This suggests that in this case, “Section 12(1)[10] of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971’s” provisions, shall be followed, which stipulated a maximum punishment of Rs. 5,000 and a prison sentence of six months.

  • Prashant Bhushan Case[11]

On his Twitter page, advocate Prashant Bhushan stated that “When historians in the future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction & more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs.” And one more tweet“ CJI rides a 50 lakh motorcycle belonging to a BJP leader at Raj Bhavan, Nagpur, without a mask or helmet, at a time when he keeps the SC in lockdown mode denying citizens their fundamental right to access Justice! Therefore, the key issue, in this case, was whether Contemnors had violated “section 2(c)(i)[12] of the 1971 Contempt of Court Act” by defaming or weakening the Supreme Court’s authority. He committed “contempt of court” by making the defamatory remark. Because of this, the Court sentenced Prashant Bhushan to three months imprisonment and a three-year ban from practicing law after finding him guilty of criminal contempt. He was also ordered to pay a fine of Rs1.

  • V. Jayarajan v. High Court of Kerala[13]

In this case, the petitioner allegedly violated the Kerala High Court’s decision forbidding meetings on public streets in June 2010 while delivering a speech at a public event in Kannur while using bad language and using unparliamentary gestures. As a consequence, he was adjudged to have committed “contempt of court”, for which the Kerala High Court imposed a six-month prison term. While the petitioner appealed to the “supreme court”. The Court additionally notice that the appellant made no attempt to retract his remarks concerning the judges and made no attempt to demonstrate sorrow or guilt. The Kerala High Court’s decision was therefore upheld by the court, with the exception that the sentence was reduced from six months to four months.

  • Zahira Habibullah Sheikh & Anr vs State Of Gujarat & Ors

This case has been dubbed the “best bakery case.” The judge in this instance observed that the “Contempt of Court Act, 1971″‘s definition of a contempt punishment only applied to the High Court and was only intended to be a guide for the Supreme Court. The court’s astute ruling covered how the administration of justice may occasionally be tainted by political influence.[14]

Some more famous cases are:-

  1. N. Duda vs V. P. Shiv Shankar & Others[15]
  2. Hari Singh Nagra v. Kapil Sibal[16]
  3. Aditya Kashyap v. Rachita Taneja[17]
  4. Rajagopal vs State Of T.N[18]
  5. Abhyudaya Mishra v. Kunal Kamra[19]

CONCLUSION

It is important to preserve court decorum in the legal profession. There won’t be any disruptions to the court sessions or hate speech over the judges’ rulings. When someone is found liable for “contempt of court”, the responsible officials have the jurisdiction to penalize them. The number of instances involving contempt of court has been steadily rising in recent years. This paper has led us to the conclusion that the supreme court will issue several significant rulings on this issue, and we have also deduced that the purpose of contempt is to safeguard the institution and avoid tampering with the execution of justice. Therefore, the judiciary plays a very important role in “contempt of court”. Last but not least, I’d like to draw some conclusions from Lord Atkin’s wise statements in “Andre Paul Terence Ambard v. Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago”[20]“Justice is not a cloistered virtue; she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken, comments of ordinary men.”

Author(s) Name: Siddharth Raj (Amity Law School, Noida)

References:

[1]Attorney-General v Times Newspapers Ltd., [1973] 3 W.L.R. 298

[2]Contempt of Court Act, 1952

[3]Contempt of Court Act, 1926

[4]Contempt of Court Act, 1971,  s 2(a)

[5]Contempt of Court Act, 1971,  s 2(b)

[6]Contempt of Court Act, 1971,  s 2(c)

[7]Contempt of Court Act, 1971,  s 12

[8]Amanat Raza, ‘Contempt of Court’ (Ipleaders, 20 August 2019) <https://blog.ipleaders.in/contempt-of-court-2/> accessed 12 July 2022

[9]Supreme Court Bar Association v Union Of India & Anr., (1998) 2 SCC 584

[10] Contempt of Court Act, 1971,  s 12(1)

[11]Prashant Bhushan (Contempt Matter), In Re (2020) 16 SCC 333

[12] Contempt of Court Act, 1971,  s 2(c) (i)

[13]M.V. Jayarajan v High Court of Kerala (2015) Criminal Appeal No. 2099/2011

[14]Zahira Habibullah H Sheikh AndAnr v State Of Gujarat And Ors (2004) 4 SCC 158

[15]P.N. Duda v V. P. Shiv Shankar & Others (1988), AIR 1208

[16]Hari Singh Nagra v Kapil Sibal (2010) 8 SCR 879

[17]Aditya Kashyap v Rachita Taneja (2020) Contempt Petition (Criminal) No. 4/2020

[18]R. Rajagopal v State Of T.N (1995), AIR 264

[19]Abhyudaya Mishra v Kunal Kamra (2020) Contempt Petition (Criminal) No. 2/2020

[20] Andre Paul Terence Ambard v Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago (1936) All ER 704