A meaning by contempt of court in India refers to action defies the authority or dignity of the court, punishable by law.

What do you mean by contempt of court in India?

Introduction –

A meaning by contempt of court in India refers to any action that defies/ disrespects the authority/ dignity of the court, punishable by law. The contempt of court concept is different from that of monarchy states and different from today’s democracy form where freedom of the citizens is more important than considering monarchy states in past history. The monarchy states the theory that ” the King cannot do any wrong.” That means there was always a king who decided what was contempt of court. There was no use of the principle of natural law theory in the contempt court cases.

As far as India is concerned, we have accepted the parliamentary form of democracy where representatives of the citizens decide  the policy of the state. In a democracy, the contempt of court concept was first used in England in the 18th century, and then it was used  the world. The main object of the contempt of court theory is to maintain the rule of law in the state.

Therefore, here in this article we have to see the object of contempt court theory and how effectively it is used by the various countries in their states. As far as India is concerned, how effectively the contempt of court method is used is a subject of study. The accusation is always there with the Indian Judiciary that there is a lack of representation of society in it. As a result, it is always assumed that a one-sided mentality is present in judgment, such as the constitution favoring reservation but most judges opposing the reservation theory.

This is the conflict between judges and the constitution’s ideology, the counter argument given by the most of the judges is that representation in the judiciary must of of the basis of merit. The Other intellectuals deny this merit theory by explaining that merit is the not only basis of selecting the judges on the judiciary. Because morality and independent views are the other criteria of selecting the judges.. So here we have to focus on the contempt of court theory and see the details of it as following points.

What is Contempt of Court ? –

Criminal contempt means publication (whether by words, spoken or written or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) Scandalizes or tends to scandalize or lower or tends to lower the authority of any court. Prejudices, interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of  any judicial proceedings.

The authority of contempt of court is given by the Indian constitution through Article 129 & 215 to Supreme Court and High Court. The other courts won’t have the authority of contempt of court, but if the contempt is happening in these court then this proceeding comes under High court of that jurisdiction.

History of Contempt of Court Law in India –

The Indian law system basically comes from the British law because they ruled in India over 200 years and they had ruled over half of the world in history. Therefore, they have influence over the world’s most of the countries, including today’s superpower United States of America. Basically contempt of court comes in England 8 the century. As far as India is concerned the contempt of court implemented through King of England charter 1776.

The contempt of court which is formed of today’s contempt of court were entered in India through Britishers, where the East India Company has their own object of business establishment in India. Now Current after the Independence object of the contempt of court is completely different than the British India law.  The Pre-Independence Judiciary was the platform of the current Judiciary of India, but the object is completely changed or says that wider its aspects.

In British India there was lots of conflicts between different Presidencies and their subordinate courts  The Contempt of Court Act 1926 was the first law made particularly for the contempt of court proceedings. In 1937 the contempt of court Act amended with covering all the courts to contempt of court and power given to all the High Court and Supreme Court which is courts of record. The Princely state, Hyderabad, Madhyabharat, Mysore, Rajasthan, Travancore-Cochin, Saurashtra etc. These states excluded from The contempt of Court Act 1926 and they had their own contempt of court law.

Object of the Contempt of Court Law –

The main object of the Contempt of Court Act 1971 is defined that power of certain courts in punishing contempt of court and regulate their procedures in relation thereto. Which means the purpose of the contempt of court is that to uphold the majesty of the judicial system. While exercising this power by the court must not be hypersensitive or emotional for judgements delivering. The definition of contempt of court is given in Section 2 of the act in details which is discussed by us in earlier paragraphs.

Willfulness of disobedience is very crucial in framing contempt of court charges, ignorance or any circumstance of disobedience is considered to be a  pardon to accused.In the recent case of contempt of court, the Senior Supreme Court Advocate given statement through social media about Chief Justice of India. Which is the Supreme Court has taken Cognizance and filed a case against Prashant Bhushan.

Prashant Bhushan’s Argument in the court was I have a right of freedom of speech and expression given by the Constitution, Article 19, and truth is the defense for criticizing the court. But Supreme Court denied his argument and fined Re 1 for contempt of court, against apology to the Supreme Court. Prashant Bhushan further filed review petition against this petition because he thought that if he agree with the court decision,  then he make himself contempt and he think that he is not guilty. So in this matter we can see the power of the court to interpret the definition of contempt court.

Contempt of Court Law in USA –

As per United States of America code the contempt of court contains three essential elements i.e.

  • Misbehave of any person at the court or obstruct the administration of the justice.
  • Misbehave of any its officer in official transaction.
  • Disobedience of any Writ, order, decree, rule etc..

In the US court of law, there are mainly two types of contempt of court one is civil or criminal contempt of court and the other is direct or indirect contempt of court. The criminal contempts are ,mainly punitive in nature with fine and civil contempt are mainly fines. The interpretation of any contempt of court charges is in the hands of Judges who can decide the situation of that contempt and decide the case as per there.

These contempts could be by the imprisonment with fines or with only imprisonment or only with fines & most of the times it can be depended on forgiveness, the power used by judges if the offender accepts their fault and request court for forgiveness through a pardon. In civil contempts even though judges forgive the offender of contempt of court, but its effect comes to the proceedings of that case.

The United State Judiciary has not given power, as given to Indian Judiciary but still they have to entertain the freedom of speech and personal rights of any citizens. Direct contempt of court occurs in the presence of the court and indirect contempt of court occurs outside the court. While in USA proceedings are conducted mostly online, where the misuse of the internet is happening so there are many jurors found guilty of contempt of court while using the internet to communicate with party of trail while online proceedings.

Contempt of Court Law in India –

The contempt of court Act comes in British India by British charter to the East India Company to do their trade by controlling the rule of law in India. In 1926 first time British Parliament enacted the contempt of court Act 1926 which is executed in the Presidency town in India. After independence the influence of British law systems shows on our every law system.

The contempt court act 1971 is the first law enacted in India ,but already in the constitution more power given to the Indian Judiciary. Article 129 & Article 215 of Indian constitution given the power of court contempt to Supreme Court and various High Courts in India. There is real power to the Indian Judiciary comes from Indian Constitution and the Contempt of Court Act 1971 made so improve the procedure of contempt court law.

Because today’s digital platform and court proceedings are now made through online where it is very difficult define contempt of court. Therefore time to time making changes in contempt of court definition is needed. The reputation of the any Judicial system depends upon its decision making skills and influence of politics on it. If the Judiciary is in influence of any society or political group then it is losing its credibility.

Difference between contempt of court & contempt of Constitution –

It is very difficult to understand the contempt of court and the contempt of constitution because these laws conflicts each other. Because the power of the contempt of court to punish is given by the constitution, but it knows that power must be separated for check and balance purpose. As per Article 129 and Article 215 the power given to the Supreme Court, Highcourt respectively.

The actual power of the Supreme Court to punish is not coming from section 14 of the Contempt of Court Act 1971 but it comes from Article 129 and Article 142(2) of the Indian Constitution. Therefore, it is very difficult to control the power of Judiciary by the other organ of the Democracy, because it is the expert body of law. So If the Judiciary misused the power of contempt of court, then who punished the Judges, it is a very important question remains silent.

If the Judiciary misuse the power of the contempt of court then it becomes the contempt of the constitution and then who punish this activity. This is a conflict of the contempt of court and the contempt of the Constitution. The contempt of the constitution is a crime against the country by violating the  Constitutions principles.

Features of Contempt of Court Law –

  • Post independence The Contempt of Court Act 1971 was introduced in India at 24 December 1971.
  • As per the Indian Constitution, Article 129 punishment power given to Supreme Court & as per Article 142(2) investigatory power is given to the Supreme Court.
  • As per Article 215 of the Indian Constitution contempt of court power given the High Courts of the Indian Judiciary.
  • Other Courts of the Judicial system of the country don’t have the power of contempt of court punishment, but it can be preceded by the High Court of their Jurisdiction.
  • In British India first time in India Contempt of Court Act was enacted through British Crown Charter to East India Company, which is executed in 1776 in the Presidency Towns stem of India.
  • The object of the Contempt of courts Act is to protect the Judicial system of India through the respect of every citizen of India and follow the orders, rules, decree, of the court.
  • In Monarchy system, there was also the rule of contempt of court, but that rule was completely made by the monarchy themselves whether it is right or wrong, but in today’s democratically system these the contempt of court rules is made for maintaining the law of the land.
  • United state judiciary also has a contempt of court act, but their presidential democratic system has less power to the Judiciary than Parliamentary Democracy system, the Indian contempt of court Act 1971 influenced by the British law.
  • Influence on the court decisions, defamation of the reputation of the courts, disobedience of court order, decree, intentionally these the contempt of court.
  • In India there is two types of contempt of court, first is civil contempt and second is criminal contempt.
  • As per the contempt of court Act 1971 the maximum punishment of imprisonment is six month and fine, the high court or the Supreme Court have the power to decide the amount and punishment as per the circumstances.
  • As per the Article of Indian Constitution 19 every the citizens have the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression so criticism of any judgement of the court is fair, but if the intention is to defame the court which comes under contempt of court.
  • The contempt of court proceedings contains in three ways in the court, first is Suo Moto ( court by himself take initiatives)
  • The second contempt of court proceedings is made by the Attorney General or Solicitor General.
  • The third way of contempt of court proceedings is made by any person, with civil contempt and in criminal contempt court case any person made with the consent of the Attorney General or Solicitor General in written.

Critical Analysis of Contempt of Court Power –

In Prashant Bhushan case where he was punished with one rupee fine by the court for contempt of court proceedings for scandalous statement ate social media for Chief Justice of India. He defends his statement by referring the fundamental rights given by the constitution of India under Article 19. The Supreme Court denied his argument and fine rupee one paid with certain time otherwise his membership of the Bar Council will be canceled for the certain period with imprisonment.

In this case we can see the court has excess power of defining the contempt of court, but sometimes this power is misused by the Judiciary and its violates the fundamental rights. We have seen that when Judiciary is influenced by the Political party or Indian Government then with the chief justice of India and other some judges comes to press conference. This means coming to the public by the Judicial member was shown that ” We the people of India is the last authority in the Democracy.

Ignorance in the society about Democracy is the major problem in developing country like India, where state power misused by the system. In the Developed countries citizens of the country are aware of their rights therefore we can see that in the United State of America that if the Judiciary misused their power then people can protest against them. But In India Judiciary’s decency is important, it also needed to protect the rights of the citizens. Therefore the balance between, this is still not set. The appointment of judges is another controversial issue where Judiciary is criticized.

Conclusion –

As in the Bhopal Gas leakage case where the Indian Judicial system was criticized by the united state court, by giving a very harsh statement about Indian Judiciary and denied the extradition of the Anderson the owner of the company. The constitution of India has given power through Article 129 & Article 215 to the Supreme Court and High Courts respective before enactment of the contempt of court Act 1971.

In this article we have tried to explain the history of British and United Judiciary and the contempt of court laws compare with Indian contempt of court laws, We try to explain the features of contempt of court law in India with critical analysis. The Indian constitution has given power to the Indian Judiciary to Interpret the constitution and keep check on laws made by the parliament.

Therefore, there is three organs of the Democracy system in India where Judiciary is the most important organ, Whose duty is to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens and filter the every enactment and policy made by the parliament. Therefore, there is checks and balances in the Indian Constitution to control the misuse of power. The Indian Judiciary is an important part of our democratic system and to maintain its dignity is as important as democracy is important.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *