Legislative Enactment cannot take away ‘Constitutional Power’ to punish for Contempt: SC

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh recently ruled that “the authority to penalise for contempt is a fundamental power bestowed in this court that cannot be limited or taken away even by legislative action,” distinguishing between Articles 142 and 129.

The SC has all and every right to make any order on punishment of any contempt of itself, according to Article 142(2), “subject to the provisions of any law adopted in this behalf by Parliament.” Article 129, on the other hand, states that the SC will be a court of record with all of the powers of a court of record, including the power to punish for contempt.

“The comparison of the two provisions shows that, whereas the founding fathers believed that the powers under clause (2) of Article 142 could be subject to any law made by the Parliament, there is no such restriction as far as Article 129 is concerned… this is a constitutional power that cannot be taken away or abridged in any way by statute,” the bench said. Further elaborating on the top court’s powers, the bench stated that under Article 129, the apex court, as a court of record, has all of the powers of a court of record, including the power to penalise for contempt of court.

The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, which established procedure and penalties, was enacted by Parliament. The act distinguishes between civil and criminal contempt. Civil contempt is defined as willful disobedience of a court order that biases any judicial proceeding or otherwise interferes with the administration of justice.

Rajiv Dahiya, managing director of Rajasthan-based NGO Suraz India Trust, was found guilty of contempt of court by the bench. Dahiya was charged after he failed to pay a fine of Rs 25 lakhs imposed on him in May 2017 for filing many frivolous petitions, as well as sending letters and filing leadings accusing current and retired judges of the court. The raison d’etre (cause for justification for being or existence) of contempt of jurisdiction, according to the Supreme Court, is to preserve the dignity of judicial forums.

Image Credits: Live Law

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