Reviewing the Contempt of Courts Act

Reviewing the Contempt of Courts Act


The Law Commission on why the Act should remain as it is 

Contempt of Courts Act

  • The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 is one of the most powerful statutes in the country
  • It gives the constitutional courts wide powers to restrict an individual’s fundamental right to personal liberty for “scandalising the court” or for “wilful disobedience” of any judgment, writ, direction or order 

Offence of “scandalizing the court”

  • The offence of “scandalizing the court” continues in India even though it was abolished as an offence in England and Wales long ago.
  • On March 8, 2018, the Department of Justice wrote to the Law Commission of India, asking it to examine an amendment to the Act to remove “scandalizing the court” as a ground for contempt and restrict contempt to only “wilful disobedience” of directions/judgments of the court. 

Law Commission Report

  • To delete the provision relating to ‘criminal contempt’ inter alia ‘scandalizing of courts’ will have no impact on the power of the Superior Courts to punish for contempt (including criminal contempt) in view of their inherent constitutional powers, as these powers are independent of statutory provisions”
  • The Law Commission informed the government that the 1971 Act was a good influence
  • In fact, the statute, by laying down procedure, restricts the vast authority of the courts in wielding contempt powers
  • The 1971 Act contains “adequate safeguards to exclude instances which may not amount to criminal contempt” as defined under Section 2(c) of the Act 1971
  • The Commission said the statute has stood the test of judicial scrutiny for about five decades
  • It empowers the High Court to act if someone is in contempt of the subordinate courts.
  • Diluting the Act would expose the subordinate judiciary to acts of contempt of court.
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