The Contempt of Court is a serious matter requiring suitable punishment to uphold the dignity of the court and administration of justice. The power of court to punish for its contempt was exercised by the court much before the enactment of statutory provisions relating to the contempt of Court. The existing law relating to the contempt of court is essentially of English origin and, therefore the study of the scheme of the contempt law in indigenous systems in India is not of much use for our parents purpose . The indigenous legal  systems of India was based as they were on the concept of a law above the sovereign and his Courts and functioning as they did, in times when means of communication were slow and publication of anything but a small scale well nigh impossible neither possessed nor needed anything like elaborate system of contempt law such as we have now.

              There are many kinds of contempt of Courts, such as  insult to judges, attacking them, comments on pending proceedings with a tendency to prejudice trial, obstruction to officers of Courts, witness or parties abusing the process of Court, breach of Duty by officers of the Courts and scandalizing Judges of Court.

Meaning and Definition of contempt of Court : 

                        According to Corpus Jurist Secondum, The Contempt of Court is disobedience to the Court by acting in opposition to the authority, justice and dignity thereof. It also signifies a wilful disregard or disobedience of the Courts order.

According to Halsbury, " Any act done or writing published which is calculated to bring a Court or Judge into disrepute or lower his authority or to interfere with the due course of justice or the Lawful process of the Court is contempt of Court."

In the opinion of Oswald -
                contempt of Court may be constituted by any conduct that trends to bring the authority and admission of law in to disrespect or disregard to to interfere with or prejudice parties, litigation, their witness during the litigation.

 Contempt law in ancient India - 

            In the ancient times, primarily it was conceived to be the duty of the King to administer Justice by hearing litigation and in doing so he was directed to take the assistance of Councillors who were to act assessors or adviser of the King.  When the king himself could not preside over the deliberations of the Court by reason of other avocations, it was directed that he should appoint a Judge to act as his delegate along with Councillors.

           King was fountain of justice, judicial system and code of conduct in all walks of life. Similarly, whosoever disobeyed decisions or orders or of Court or dictates or Ordinance issued by King was held to have committed contempt or Avman, or Utkraman, Ullanghan and was punished.  Along with the filing of the plaint the temporary injunction could be obtained and that was called as Asedhuh an injection was to be obeyed by the defendant till  he appeared and got it vacated. In Katyayan  Smriti (104 to 105)  there is a mention that in such circumstances, in case an injection was served on the dependent and it was disobeyed it was punishable. disobedience of the order of Court was contempt and was  punishable.

Punishment was imposed -

                    For the contempt of court punishment provisions was made, the kinds of punishment that could be awarded have been mentioned in Narada Smurti (1-47) Smriti Chandrika as  local arrest, temporary arrest, inhibition from traveling and restraining from doing certain specific acts. The party on whom such restraint  was imposed shall not break or disobey the same.

A person who willfully violated a legal restraint properly imposed rendered himself liable to be punished and on the other hand, the person who imposed a legal restraint without proper grounds and under circumstances in which did not justify its imposition made himself liable to penalty.

 It can be thus safely said that the content of the concept of contempt of court was developed in our judicial system since thousand years, to the date of India was brought under the foreign law.

Read also.... Punishment for Contempt of Court

Introduction of Contempt law by Britisher in India - 

        The present law relating to contempt of Court is however, based on the English law concept. the British courts from the earliest legal history assumed the power of contempt of court against those who obstructed the administration of justice        
       In England, the Courts of Record have inherent powers to punish the contempt itself and also the Court subordinate to it since the advent of judicial system. The Superior Court being court of Record has inherent power to punish contempt of itself and courts subordinate to it. Thus the contempt power of the Superior Court does not base on any statutory enactment but on the common law principle that the concept is inherent in every court of record.

       The contempt of law introduced in British India by setting up of the Court of Record through a charter of 1687 issued by the East India company for the establishment of Mayor's Court at Madras.  Thereafter charter of 1726 occupied and important places in the development of the administration of justice in India. Before 1726, there was no uniform judicial system in all three Presidency towns, for example Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. The Mayor court was reconstituted in 1753 and thereafter also, it remained the court of Record having power to punish for contempt of Court. Even prior to it,  when after 1704, the court of Admiralty ceased to sit regularly appeals from the Mayor's Court lay to the governor in Council. The admiralty court and the governor in Council may also be taken as Court of record as they heard appeals from the Mayors Court of record.

       In 1774, the  Calcutta  Mayor's Court was replaced by Supreme Court established under the charge for granted in 1774 in 1st year and software regulating act 1773 in the Madras and Bombay High Court continued till 1797 when they were superseded by the recorders court.  watch a court of record and it has power to punish for content there after the British Parliament passes and act in 1893 The recorders court was a court of record and as such it had power to punish contempt.

  The Indian High Courts Act, 1861 replaced the Supreme Courts of Calcutta and Madras by unification of Company's Court and Crowns Courts.  The High Court was a Court of record, had a power to punish for its Contempt.

         The first Contempt of Court Act was enacted in the year 1926 which was repealed and replaced by the Contempt of Courts Act, 1952. The Act of 1952 made some notable changes, the Act empowered the court of Judicial commissioner to punish the Contempt of court subordinate to it. It was given to Jurisdiction to inquire into or try a Contempt of itself or any Court subordinate to it.
However, the Contempt of Court Act, 1952 was not satisfactory as there were certain defects, for example., The definition of Contempt of Court and defenses available to contemner etc. not given.
There was no provision as to defenses of innocent Publication, fair and accurate report of judicial proceedings, fair criticism of judicial decisions etc. Besides these defects, even the Act did not contain any provision as to Contempt liability of the Judges and other persons acting Judicially. The Act did not contain any provision to the procedure to be followed in the Contempt proceeding and as to appeal in contempt cases. The above defects in the Act compelled the Government to examine the existing Contempt law and to remove out the defects therein. Accordingly on 1st April, 1960 a bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by Shri Bibhuti Bhushan Dasgupta who amend the law relating to Contempt of Courts. After considering the Bill, the Government realized need to Reform the law relating to Contempt of Court, and Committee was set up by the Government under the Chairmanship of Shri H.N. Sanyal,  Additional Solicitor General of India in July 1961. The entire law on the Contempt of  Court was scrutinized by the Committee and then the Committee submitted its report on 28 February 1963 to Lok Sabha. The Bill was then referred to the joint select committee of the parliament. The Committee submitted its report on 20 February 1970. The Bill was substantially altered in the light of the said effect and thereafter, it enacted  as the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. This act came into force on 24 December 1971 and repealed replaced the earlier Contempt of Court Act, 1952.

                     The provisions of this Act extends to the whole India, provided that it shall not apply to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, except to the extent to which the provisions of this Act relate to the content of Supreme Court. This Act is not exhaustive code Section 22 of the Act provides that the provisions of this act shall be in addition and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law relating to the Contempt of Courts. In this Act the definition of term, "Contempt of Court" is along with important defenses. The Act makes provisions in respect of liability of the Judges, Magistrates and other persons acting Judicially. It makes elaborate provisions in respect of the procedures to be followed in the Contempt proceeding and also in respect of the Appeal.

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