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SC on ‘punishment’ for political parties facing contempt


Political parties facing contempt for defying a Supreme Court judgment to declare or publicise the criminal antecedents of their candidates before elections may run the risk of derecognition or a time-bound forfeiture of their election symbols.


GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Judiciary)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Indian Constitution: Regarding Contempt of court
  2. What is not contempt of court?

Indian Constitution: Regarding Contempt of court

  • Article 129 and 215 of the Constitution of India empowers the Supreme Court and High Court respectively to punish people for their respective contempt.
  • The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 defines the power of the High Court to punish contempts of its subordinate courts. The Supreme Court and High Courts have the power to punish for contempt of court, either with simple imprisonment for a term up to six months or with fine up to 2,000 or with both.
  • Power to punish for contempt of court under Articles 129 and 215 is not subject to Article 19(1)(a).
  • According to Lord Hardwick, there is a three-fold classification of Contempt:
    1. Scandalizing the court itself.
    2. Abusing parties who are concerned in the cause, in the presence of court.
    3. Prejudicing the public before the cause is heard.
  • However, in India contempt of court is of two types under The Contempt of Court Act, 1971
    1. Civil Contempt: Under 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.
    2. Criminal Contempt: Under 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:
      • Scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court, or
      • Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding, or
      • Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

What is not contempt of court?

  • Fair and accurate reporting of judicial proceedings will not amount to contempt of court.
  • Nor is any fair criticism on the merits of a judicial order after a case is heard and disposed of.

Is truth a defence against a contempt charge?

  • For many years, truth was seldom considered a defence against a charge of contempt.
  • There was an impression that the judiciary tended to hide any misconduct among its individual members in the name of protecting the image of the institution.
  • The Act was amended in 2006 to introduce truth as a valid defence, if it was in public interest and was invoked in a bona fide manner.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023