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Current Affairs

Contempt of court

Date: 13 November 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Attorney General K K Venugopal gave his consent for the initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra for his tweets on Supreme Court.

 

Background

The petitioner has requested the consent of the Attorney General for initiating contempt proceedings against the accused.

 

Details

  • 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, is attracted by 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:

  • scandalises or tends 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 proceeding; or
  • interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

 

Need for AG’s consent for contempt initiation

  • Subsection 1 of Section 15 (Cognizance of criminal contempt in other cases) of The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 reads:

  • In the case of a criminal contempt, other than a contempt referred to in Section 14 (“Procedure where contempt is in the face of the Supreme Court or a High Court”), the Supreme Court or the High Court may take action on its own motion or on a motion made by (a) the Advocate-General, or (b) any other person, with the consent in writing of the Advocate-General.
  • Persons accused of contempt have the right to be heard in their defence and courts can hear evidence regarding the case as well. Detention in custody is permissible during a trial for contempt.

 

Punishment

According to the Act, 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 the accused may be discharged or the punishment awarded may be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court.

Contempt of court

Date: 16 August 2020 Tags: Bills & Laws

Issue

A three-judge Supreme Court Bench has found two tweets by lawyer Prashant Bhushan amounting to “serious contempt of court”.

 

Background

The judgement revives the debate about the relevance of the contempt law, how judges in mature democracies deal with criticism of judges, and how India’s courts have been responding to the contempt-versus-freedom-of-speech debate.

 

Details

  • The Supreme Court had tolerated such a strong indictment of itself, and then CJI Justice Dipak Mishra when a group of senior judges had spoken out. Now, it has chosen not to ignore tweets by a lawyer-activist.

  • It said magnanimity cannot be stretched to such an extent that may amount to weakness in dealing with a malicious, scurrilous, calculated attack on the very foundation of the institution of judiciary and thereby damaging the very foundation of the democracy.

  • The contempt power is needed to punish wilful disobedience to court orders (civil contempt), as well as interference in the administration of justice and overt threats to judges.

  • The reason why the concept of contempt exists is to insulate the institution from unfair criticism and prevent a fall in the judiciary’s reputation in the public eye.

 

Contempt of court

  • Contempt of court has not been defined in the constitution. The issue is handled under The Contempt of Court Act, 1971.

  • Criminal contempt under Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 means any publication which (i) scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of any court; or (ii) prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceedings, or (iii) interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

  • The expression “scandalising the court” has not been defined. In Shiv Shankar (1988), the Supreme Court held that a criticism of the court that does not impair and hamper the administration of justice cannot be punished as contempt.