What’s in the news?
- In a step towards decriminalising politics, the Supreme Court held eight political parties guilty of contempt of court for not making public criminal records of their poll candidates.
- The court directed that political parties must publish the criminal antecedents of candidates within 48 hours of their selection.
- In its February 2020 judgment, linked to the Bihar Assembly election, the Supreme Court said candidates must upload these details either within 48 hours of their selection or at least two weeks before the first date for filing of nomination papers.
- The Supreme Court made it mandatory for all political parties to put up the details on their websites and also publish them in two newspapers. The compliance report will have to be submitted to the Election Commission of India within 72 hours of the selection of the candidate.
- While delivering its judgment, the Supreme Court noted over the last four general elections, there has been an alarming increase of criminals in politics. In 2004, 24% of the Members of Parliament had criminal cases pending against them; in 2009, that went up to 30%; in 2014 to 34%; and in 2019, as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases pending against them.
What is Contempt of Court?
- Contempt of court is an act of disrespect or disobedience towards a judge or court’s officers or interference with its orderly process.
- According to the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, contempt of court can either be civil contempt or criminal contempt.
- It means 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.
- It means 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
- 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.
Punishments for Contempt of Court
- The punishment for contempt of court is simple imprisonment for a term up to six months and/or a fine of up to ₹. 2,000.
- The Supreme Court in 1991, ruled that it has the power to punish for contempt not only of itself but also of high courts, subordinate courts and tribunals functioning in the entire country.
- The High Courts have been given special powers to punish contempt of subordinate courts, as per Section 10 of The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971.
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.
- In 2006, the government brought in an amendment to the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 which now provides “truth” as defence provided it is bona fide and in public interest.
- Article 129: Grants Supreme Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.
- Article 142(2): Enables the Supreme Court to investigate and punish any person for its contempt.
- Article 215: Grants every High Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.