Trial not a must if contempt committed in open court: SC | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Trial not a must if contempt committed in open court: SC

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 is self-evident to prove the charge, the Supreme Court has ruled, reports Satya Prakash.

mumbai Updated: Nov 02, 2009 00:48 IST
Satya Prakash

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 is self-evident to prove the charge, the Supreme Court has ruled.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Altmas Kabir said, in such cases the higher courts needn’t follow the long-drawn procedure of statutory trial, which requires courts to hear the contemnor before punishing him/her.

The court gave this ruling while jailing four women from a Mumbai-based music school for hurling a slipper at Justice Arijit Pasayat (since retired) in March this year in the presence of several senior lawyers and litigants while the judge was holding court.

While justifying Justice Pasayat’s instant order jailing the women, the bench disapproved of the stand of Justice A.K. Ganguly (who was sitting with Justice Pasayat when the incident happened) that no contemnor could be convicted without proper trial.

As Justice Ganguly differed with Justice Pasayat’s decision of summarily punishing the women, the Chief Justice of India had referred it to a larger bench headed by Justice Kabir, which said: “Where an incident of the instant nature takes place within the presence and sight of the judges, the same amounts to contempt in the face of the Court and is required to be dealt with at the time of the incident itself.”

Justifying such summary punishment in a contempt case, Justice Kabir’s bench said: “This is necessary for the dignity and majesty of the Courts to be maintained. When an object, such as a footwear, is thrown at the Presiding Officer in a court proceeding, the object is not to merely scandalise or humiliate the judge, but to scandalise the institution itself and thereby lower its dignity in the eyes of the public.”

“The incident which took place in the courtroom presided over by Justice Pasayat was within the confines of the courtroom and was witnessed by a large number of people and the throwing of the footwear was also admitted by Sarita Parikh, who without expressing any regret for her conduct stood by what she had done and was supported by the other contemnors. In the light of such admission, the summary procedure followed by Justice Pasayat cannot be faulted,” the three-judge bench said.

“Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act no doubt contemplates issuance of notice and an opportunity to the contemnors to answer the charges in the notice to satisfy the principles of natural justice,” the three-judge bench said disagreeing with Justice Ganguly’s view that principles of natural justice must be adhered to.