Contempt of Court

• The Supreme Court held the former interim Director of the CBI, M. Nageswara Rao, guilty of contempt for disobeying its order not to transfer Joint Director A.K. Sharma, who was probing the Bihar shelter home cases, from the investigating agency.

What is Contempt of Court

• In India, the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, divides contempt into civil contempt and criminal contempt.

Civil Contempt

• Civil contempt is when a person wilfully disobeys any order of a court.

• The Act defines civil contempt as willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or willful breach of an undertaking given to a court. Section 2(b) of the 1971 Act not only encompasses willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order etc. of a court, it also takes in its fold a willful breach of an undertaking given to a court.

Criminal Contempt

• Under Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, criminal contempt has been defined as 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:

• 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.

Is there criticism of the judiciary that’s permitted?

• The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, very clearly states that fair criticism of any case which has been heard and decided is not contempt.

• High Court and Supreme Court are bestowed with the power to punish for the contempt of the court.

• Under Section 12 of Contempt of Court Act, 1971, a contempt of court can 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.

• However, in civil cases if the court considers that a fine will not meet the ends of justice and that a sentence of imprisonment is necessary shall, instead of sentencing him to simple imprisonment, direct that the he be detained in a civil prison for such period not exceeding six months as it may think fit.

• The court is not supposed to impose a sentence for contempt of court in excess of what is prescribed under this section either in respect of itself or of a court subordinate to it.

• An accused may be discharged or the punishment awarded may be remitted on apology being made by the accused to the satisfaction of the court. An apology is not supposed to be rejected merely on the ground that it is qualified or conditional if the accused makes it bona fide.


Mains Paper 2: Polity

Prelims level: Contempt of Court

Mains level: Read the attached story

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