1) Introduction  : 

          Any act done or writing published calculated to bring a court or a Judge of the Court into Contempt or lower his authority, is one class of contempt further , an act done or writing published calculated to obstruct or interfere with due course of the courts, is another class of the Contempt of Court.  
          The purpose of the Contempt jurisdiction of court is, therefore, to uphold the majesty and dignity of the law Courts and the image of such majesty in the minds of the public cannot be allowed to be destroyed. An action for contempt is not for the purpose of placing judges in a position of immunity from criticism but is aimed at protection of the freedom of individual and the orderly and equal administration of laws.  Contempt of Court Act 1971, Section 3 to 7 provides for defenses to the persons charged with Criminal Contempt.    

2) Meaning Contempt of Court :

     Halsbury Laws of England defines Contempt of Court as , " Any act done or writing published which calculated to bring a court or Judge into contempt or lowering authority or inference with due course or lawful process of the court is the contempt of Court. 

According to Oswald " Contempt of Court may be said to be constituted by any conduct that tends to bring the authority and administration of law into disrespect or disregard or to interfere with or prejudice parties to litigation or their witnesses during the litigation.

      The Contempt of Court cannot be defined exhaustively. According Section 2(a) of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 Contempt of Courts  means, Civil Contempt or Criminal Contempt.

3) Criminal Contempt :

        According to Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971  “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 -

                (i) Scandalizes or tends to scandalize, 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 proceeding , or
               (iii) Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice.

        The definition of Criminal Contempt is wide enough to include any act of person which would tend to interfere with administration of justice or which would lower the authority of the court.  Doctrine mens rea is not applicable and is not essential ingredient of the Criminal Contempt.

4) Defences In Criminal Contempt :

    Section 3 to 7 of the contempt of Court Act 1971, provides for defences to the person charged with criminal contempt are as follows :

I) Innocent publication and distribution of matter  (Section 4)

               (1)  A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court on the ground that he has published whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations, or otherwise any matter which interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the course of justice in connection with criminal proceeding pending at that time of publication, if at that time he had no reasonable grounds for believing that the proceeding was pending.

               (2) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Act or any other law for the time being in force, the publication of any such matter as is mentioned in sub-section (1) in connection with criminal proceeding which is not pending at the time of publication shall not be deemed to constitute contempt of court.

               (3) A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court on the ground that he has distributed a publication containing any such matter as is mentioned in sub-section (1), if at the time of distribution he had no reasonable grounds for believing that it contained or was likely to contain any such matter as aforesaid:

       Provided that this sub-section shall not apply in respect of the distribution of  —

           (i) any publication which is a book or paper printed or published otherwise than in conformity with the rules contained in section 3 of the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867;

           (ii) any publication which is a newspaper published otherwise than in conformity with the rules contained in Section 5 of the said Act.

 Explanation

            For the purposes of this section, a judicial proceeding —
            (a) is said to be pending —
     
            (A) in the case of a civil proceeding, when it is instituted by the filing of a plaint or otherwise;


           
          (B) in the case of a criminal proceeding under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, or any other law  —

           (i) where it relates to the commission of an offence, when the charge-sheet or challan is filed, or when the court issues summons or warrant, as the case may be, against the accused, and

           (ii) in any other case, when the court takes cognizance of the matter to which the proceeding relates, and in the case of a civil or criminal proceeding, shall be deemed to continue to be pending until it is heard and finally decided, that is to say, in a case where an appeal or revision is competent, until the appeal or revision is heard and finally decided or, where no appeal or revision is preferred, until the period of limitation prescribed for such appeal or revision has expired;

           (iii) which has been heard and finally decided shall not be deemed to be pending merely by reason of the fact that proceedings for the execution of the decree, order or sentence passed therein are pending.

II) Fair and accurate report of judicial proceeding not contempt (Section 4)

               Subject to the provisions contained In section 7, a person shall not be guilty of contempt of court for publishing a fair and accurate report of a judicial proceeding or any state thereof.

III) Fair criticism of judicial act not contempt  (Section 5)
 
       A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court for publishing any fair comment on the merits of any case which has been heard and finally decided.


IV) Bona fide Complaint against presiding officers of subordinate courts (Section 6)

         A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court in respect of any statement made by him in good faith concerning the presiding officer or any subordinate court to –

              (a) Any other subordinate court, or

              (b) The High court to which it is subordinate.

Explanation – In this section, ”subordinate court” means any court subordinate to a High court.


V) Publication of information relating to proceeding in chambers or in camera not contempt except in certain cases (Section 7)

       (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, a person shall not be guilty of contempt of court for publishing a fair and accurate report of a judicial proceedings before any court sitting in chambers or in camera except in the following cases, that is to say -

               (a) Where the publication is contrary to the provisions of any enactment for the time being in force.
               (b) Where the court, on grounds of public policy or in exercise of any power vested in it, expressly prohibits the publication of all information relating to the proceeding or of information of the description which is published.

               (c) Where the court sits in chambers or in camera for reason connected with public order or the security of the State, the publication of information relating to those proceedings,

               (d) Where the information relates to secret process, discovery or invention which is an issue in the proceedings.

        (2) Without prejudice to the provisions contained in sub section (1) a person shall not be guilty of contempt of court for publishing the text or a fair and accurate summary of the whole, or any part, of an order made by a court sitting in chambers or in camera, unless the court has expressly prohibited the publication thereof on grounds of public policy, or for reasons connected with public order or the security of the State, or on the ground that it contains information relating to secret process, discovery or invention, or in exercise of any power vested on it.

    
    VI) Contempt not punishable in certain cases (Section 13) 

              Section 13 of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 provides that notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force no court shall impose a sentence under this Act for a contempt of court unless it is satisfied that the contempt is of such a nature that it substantially interferes, or tends substantially to interfere with the due course of justice.

    In order to constitute Criminal Contempt, it is not necessary that there should be an actual interference with the administration of justice, but it is sufficient if the publication or act complained of is likely top interfere with the administration of justice.                

See also : 

1) Contempt of Courts by Lawyers

2) Origin and Development of contempt law in India

3) Right to Practice under the Advocates Act, 1961

4) Powers of State Bar Council

5) Remedies against the order of punishment passed by the Disciplinary Committee

6) Types of contempt of courts

 

2 comments:

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