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Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

An Act to define and limit the powers of certain courts in punishing contempt of courts and to regulate their procedure in relation thereto.

Prior to contempt of courts act 1926 the power of the court to punish for contempt was felt to be uncontrolled power which was no doubt remedied by the Act of 1926 and the amending Act 1937. Subsequently a committee was appointed to examine the law pertaining to contempt of courts and as a result the present act was enacted.

Types of Contempt

As per Section 2(9) contempt of courts means civil contempt and criminal contempt.

As per section 2(b) of the Act Civil Contempt means: Wilful disobedience of any judgement, decree, direction order writ or other processes of court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.

Accordingly section 2© of the Act criminal contempt means: The publication whether by words spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which;

  1. Scandalizes or trends to scandalize or lowers or tends to lower the authority of any court or prejudice or interfere or trends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding or interferes or trends to’ Interfere with or obstructs or trends to obstruct administration of justice in any other manner.

Proceedings under contempt of courts act are summary in nature.

Contempt of court is not an offence within the meaning of section 4(2) of Cr. P.C. Merits of the matter need not be gone into a contempt proceeding.

(V.G. Peterson v. O.V Foreces) AIR 1963 SC 692.

Aim of Contempt Proceedings

The aim is to deter men from offering any indignities to a court of justice. Ramakrishna Reddy v.State of Madras AIR 1952 SC. 149.

Kinds of Contempts

There are many kinds of contempts, the main forms of contempt are

  1. Insult to Judges
  2. Attack upon judge proceedings
  3. Comment on pending proceedings with tendency to prejudice fair trial obstruction to officers of courts, witnesses in the parties.
  4. Abusing the process of the court.
  5. Breach of duty by officers connected with the court and scandalizing the judges of the courts.

Examples Of Contempt

The following are certain examples of contempt with decided important case laws:

Stay of proceedings disobeyed

When the superior courts order staying proceedings is disobeyed by the inferior court the later court commits contempt of court. Bardakanta Misra V. Bhimsel Dixit AIR 1972 SC 2466

Speeches or Writings misrepresenting Court proceedings

Speeches or Writings misrepresenting the proceedings of the court or prejudicing the public or against a party or involving reflections on parties to a proceeding amount to contempt of Court. Judge commenting in press about pending case. Where a sessions Judge comments in press and television about the pending case it will amount to contempt of court. Subash Chand v. S.M. Agarw.ala 1984 Cr. L. J. 481 (Delhi).

Shouting at Court

By shouting at the court is belittling the dignities of the court which cannot ever be permitted as that would heard a dwindling of the faith of the public in affectioners of the system itself. It is unwholes one for any member of the bar to lose his temper and bring about a situation in the public court which can afford justifiable interference to be made of the action being voluntary and intended at lowering the prestige of judiciary. State of A. P.

  • Saetharamaiah 1996 (2) ALT 992.

Advocate raising voice

An advocate raising voice in High pitch and annoying magistrate even after waning will amount to contempt of court. Mohamed Ali v. Prasanna AI R 1995 SC454

Forging order of court

  • Threatening writ petitioners.
  • Police Officer obstructing execution of decree.
  • Jail superintendent not releasing the accused in spite of the order of the court.
  • Filing of false affidavit will amount to criminal contempt.

Afzal v. State of Haryana AIR 1996 Sc 2326.

Certain acts will not amount to contempt of court they are as follows Under Section-7 a person shall not be guilty of contempt of court for publishing fair and accurate report of a judicial proceeding or any state thereof.

Fair Criticism

It is open to anyone to express fair reasonable and legitimate criticism of any act or conduct of a judge in his judicial capacity even to make a proper and fair comment on any decision given by him.

Innocent publication and distribution of matter: Fair reporting regarding disposal of case and judgement of journalists. Rama Oayal Markaraha v.State of M.P. AIR 1978 SC 921

Punishment for Contempt of Court

Contempt of court may be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extent to 6 months or with time which may extend to Rs. 2000/- or with both. That the accused may be discharged or the punishment awarded may be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court.

Limitation for actions for Contempt

No court shall initiate any proceedings of contempt either on its own motion or otherwise after the expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the contempt have been committed.

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