A person can be summarily punished for contempt of court if the alleged act of contempt is committed “in the face of the court” and the charge is self-evident, the Supreme Court has ruled.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Altmas Kabir said that in such cases, higher courts need not follow the long-drawn procedure of statutory trial, which requires courts to hear the accused before punishing him or her.
“Although Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, lays down the procedure to be followed in cases of criminal contempt in the face of the court, it does not preclude the court from taking recourse to summary proceedings when a deliberate and wilful contumacious incident takes place in front of their eyes...,” the bench said.
The ruling came as the court pronounced the jail terms of four women who had hurled a slipper at Justice Arijit Pasayat in March in the presence of several senior lawyers while the judge was holding court.
Justifying Pasayat’s instant order to jail the women, the bench disapproved of the stand of Justice A.K. Ganguly (who was sitting with Pasayat when the incident happened) that no contemnor could be convicted without a proper trial.
The Chief Justice of India had referred the matter to a larger bench, headed by Kabir.
Kabir’s bench said: “This (summary punishment in contempt cases) is necessary for the dignity and majesty of the courts to be maintained.”