In India, the courts are criticized on the ground that they often invoke the provisions of contempt of court to punish expressions of dissent. What do you understand by the contempt of court? While highlighting the existing law on the same, critically examine if it is time to amend the law on contempt of court.|

Published: August 24, 2017

Article 129 & 215 of Indian Constitution provides for contempt powers to Supreme court and High court respectively.  Subsequently, the Contempt of court Act 1971 provides for two type of contempt Civil and criminal contempt.
Issues related to contempt power

  1. The contempt powers put a restriction on the freedom of speech and expression provided under article 19(1).
  2. 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)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

SC in Arundhati Roy case 2002, had held that fair criticism of judge and institution of the judiciary may not amount to contempt if done in good faith and public interest. However, sometimes contempt powers are misused.
The present law on contempt is a colonial hangover. In feudal times king was Supreme and criticizing was a punishable offence. However, in a democracy people are supreme. The authority of judge does not come from the fear of contempt but from the public’s confidence in the Institution of the judiciary. Therefore now it is high time to take a fresh look at the law of contempt.

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