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What is ‘contempt of court’ and why does the A-G have to consent to these proceedings?

Topics Covered: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.

What is ‘contempt of court’, and why does the A-G have to consent to these proceedings?


Context:

Kunal Kamra, a stand-up comedian, will face contempt of court charges for his tweets following the Supreme Court’s decision to grant interim bail to television anchor Arnab Goswami.

What is contempt of court?

According to the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, contempt of court can either be civil contempt or criminal contempt.

Civil contempt means wilful disobedience of any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court, or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.

Criminal contempt is attracted by 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:

  1. Scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the    authority of, any court; or
  2. Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding; or
  3. Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

Why is the A-G’s consent needed to initiate contempt of court proceedings?

As per the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971: “In the case of a criminal contempt, other than a contempt referred to in Section 14 (“Procedure where contempt is in the face of the Supreme Court or a High Court”), the Supreme Court or the High Court may take action on its own motion or on a motion made by (a) the Advocate-General, or (b) any other person, with the consent in writing of the Advocate-General”.

What is the punishment for contempt of court?

May 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, provided that the accused may be discharged or the punishment awarded may be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Powers of SC vs HCs wrt Contempt cases.
  2. Constitutional provisions in this regard.
  3. Changes brought about by Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Act, 2006.
  4. Civil vs Criminal contempt.
  5. Rights under Article 19.
  6. Section 10 of The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 is related to?

Mains Link:

Discuss how contempt cases are handled by Supreme Court in India.

Sources: Indian Express.