Contempt of court refers to any actions which defy a court’s authority, cast disrespect on a court, or impede the ability of the court to perform its function.
It is divided as:
- Civil Contempt
Under Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, civil contempt has been defined as 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
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:
(i) Scandalises or tends to scandalise, 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 in any other manner.
Issues related to contempt of court:
- contempt powers put a restriction on the freedom of speech and expression provided under article 19(1).
- Contempt powers are against the principle of natural justice as it is a classic case of Judges being judges in their own cause.(No man should be judge in his own case)
- Contempt powers are vague, therefore often misused to protect the individual. However, the real intention behind such powers was to protect the dignity of the institution not of the individual.
- In a free democratic society criticism of Judiciary is inevitable it should not be a matter of concern as long as it does not obstruct the administration of Justice.
- It is a survival of cultural hangover.
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