Prelims cum Mains

Basics: What is Contempt of Court?

#Court Contempt | #Article 129 |#Article 215

The News

      • The Supreme Court granted another opportunity to file an affidavit to Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the contempt case for his ‘chowkidar chor hai’ remark.



      • Congress President Rahul Gandhi gave a remark ‘chowkidar chor hai’ against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which can be interpreted as the Prime Minister has done corruption in rafale deal whereas the court has earlier given clean chit to the government in Rafale case.
      • Moreover, on 10th April, the court agreed to hear the Rafale case review petitions on the basis of newly published documents in the Hindu.
      • In this context, a BJP leader filed the criminal contempt plea against Mr. Gandhi, claiming that Mr. Gandhi twisted the court’s April 10 judgment while giving remark against the PM and his remark is the grossest kind of contempt.
      • The court also found that the remarks made by Mr. Gandhi in the media on the Rafale case verdict were “incorrectly attributed” to the apex court.
      • Now, here we will understand the provisions related to contempt of courts.


Constitutional provisions related to the contempt of court

      •  Article 129 of the Constitution gives the Supreme Court to punish any person for its contempt.
      •  Article 215 gives the power to High Court for the contempt, which is governed by Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 whereas the Supreme Court by virtue of Article 129 of Constitution can decide its own jurisdiction.
      •  If there is contempt of Supreme Court then, only Supreme Court can initiate the contempt proceedings and the High Courts does not have the power to initiate the contempt proceedings of Supreme Court.


Definition of Contempt of court

      • According to the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, contempt of court can be of two types-
        • Civil contempt: It means wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
        • Criminal contempt: It means the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which-
          • Scandalises or lowers the authority of, any court; or
          • Prejudices or interferes with the due course of any judicial proceeding; or
          • Interferes with or obstructs the administration of justice in any other manner.


Punishment for contempt of court

      • It may be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months,


      • A fine which may extend to two thousand rupees,


      • With both.
      • The accused can also be discharged or the punishment may be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court.


Other provisions related to the contempt of court

      • Original jurisdiction: Contempt of Court forms an important part in the original jurisdiction of the Court.
      • Exceptions: Truth, fair and bonafide comment, and fair and reasonable criticism of the courts are not seen as contempt of courts and are permissible.
      • Time period: The contempt proceeding can be initiated till 1 year from the commission of an offence.
      • Defence: An unconditional apology forms a defence under the contempt of Court act and offered with the promise to abide by the order of the Court.
      • Eligibility: Any person can file a suit for contempt under Article 129 of the constitution or through the Rules to Regulate Proceeding for Contempt of the Supreme Court, 1975.


Some cases related to the Contempt of Court

      • K. Daphtary v. O.P. Gupta: The Court can take suo-moto cognizance of the contempt matter and can extend its jurisdiction depending upon that the powers of the Supreme Court under article 129.
      • Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India: The comments made regarding a particular Judge of the Court would not amount to contempt and this would amount to defamation under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
      • Hira Lal Dixit v. State of U.P: Actual hindrance or obstruction in the administration of justice is not an essential and only the acts which may be derogatory and resulting in the lowering of the authority of the Court in the eyes of the general public may result in contempt of Court.

Image result for court contempt

Prelims Addon InDepth
    • SC have jurisdiction under article 129 while HC Article 215
    • Suo-moto
    • For the contempt of SC, only SC can take Contempt of Court proceeding but not HC
    • Remarks against a particular judge amount to defamation but not CoC.
Topic Analysis



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