What is the law on contempt of court and requirement of Attorney General’s consent to initiate the process of contempt?


About the News: Attorney General of India K K Venugopal on Tuesday granted consent to initiate criminal contempt of court proceedings against Cartoonist Rachita Taneja for allegedly scandalising the judiciary through her tweets and illustrations.

What is contempt of court?

  1. Contempt of Court refers to the offence of showing disrespect to the dignity or authority of a court.
  2. The objective for contempt is stated to be to safeguard the interests of the public if the authority of the Court is denigrated and public confidence in the administration of justice is weakened or eroded.
Article 129 and 215 of the Constitution of India empowers the Supreme Court and High Court respectively to punish people for their respective contempt. But subordinate courts don’t have power of contempt.
As a result contempt of court Act, 1971 was enacted by the Indian parliament.
According to the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, contempt of court can either be civil contempt or criminal contempt.
  1. Civil contempt means wilful disobedience of any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court, or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
  2. Criminal contempt, on the other hand, is attracted by 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:
  1. scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court; or
  2. prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding; or
  3. Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.
Is a fair criticism allowed?
  • Yes. The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, very clearly states that fair criticism of any case which has been heard and decided is not contempt.
  • In 2006, the government brought in an amendment, which now provides “truth” as defence provided it is bona fide and in public interest.
What is the procedure for bringing a criminal contempt of court case against an individual?
Section 15 of the l The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 describes the procedure on how a case for contempt of court can be initiated.
  1.  In the case of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General or the Solicitor General
 in the case of High Courts, the Advocate General, may bring in a motion before the court for initiating a case of criminal contempt.
  1. However, if the motion is brought by any other person, the consent in writing of the Attorney General or the Advocate General is required. The motion or reference made for initiating the case will have to specify the contempt of which the person charged is alleged to be guilty.
But why does the Attorney General have to grant consent?
The objective behind requiring the consent of the Attorney General before taking cognizance of a complaint is to save the time of the court. The AG’s consent is meant that He is first safeguard against frivolous petitions and the court is the first forum for bringing them in.
Therefore, AG, as an officer of the court, will independently ascertain whether the complaint is indeed valid.

Is the AG’s consent mandatory for all contempt of court cases?

In case of contempt, Court may take action –

(a) Suo motu, or
(b) On a petition made by Attorney­ General, or Solicitor General, or
(c) On a petition made by any person and in the case of a criminal contempt with the consent in writing of the Attorney ­General or the Solicitor­ General.”
Therefore, The AG’s consent is mandatory when a private citizen wants to initiate a case of contempt of court against a person.
Before such a plea can be filed, the Attorney General must, determining if it requires the attention of the court at all sign off on the complaint
 However, Court can take ‘suo motu’ action and  when the court itself initiates a contempt of court case, as it did in the case of Prashant Bhushan recently, the AG’s consent is not required.
Article 129 of the Constitution gives the Supreme Court the power to initiate contempt cases on its own, independent of the motion brought before it by the AG or with the consent of the AG.
As article 129 states “The Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself,”
This is because the court is exercising its inherent powers under the Constitution to punish for contempt and such Constitutional powers cannot be restricted because the AG declined to grant consent.
The Supreme Court in Bal Thackrey vs Harish Pimpalkhute case wherein it was indicated that Supreme Court could have taken suo motu, even without the consent of the Attorney General, but that such a recourse should be confined to rare occasions only.
What happens if the AG denies consent?
If the AG denies consent, the matter ends
As, Last week, he turned down a request to initiate contempt proceedings against author Shefali Vaidya as the tweets were made over a year ago.
Note: The law has a limitation period of one year for bringing in action against an individual.
According to THE CONTEMPT OF COURTS ACT, 1971: No court shall initiate any proceedings of contempt, either on its own motion or otherwise, after the expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed.
What happens after the AG has granted consent?
  1. Once the consent of the Attorney General is given in writing, a notice under The Contempt of Courts Act is served personally on the person against whom the proceedings are sought to be initiated by the court.
  2. If the court decides not to serve the notice personally, the law requires the court to record the reasons for it.
  3. If the court is satisfied that the alleged contemnor is likely to abscond or evade judicial proceedings, it can order attachment of property of a value that it deems reasonable.
  4. Once the notice is served, the alleged contemnor may file an affidavit in support of his defence, explaining the nature and circumstances of his remarks.
Note: The case is required under the Act to be heard by a Bench of at least two judges. The court then takes into account any evidence available to check the affidavit, and pass appropriate orders.



GS Paper II: International Relations
Q. Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is a toothless tiger when it comes to dealing with tensions among members especially between India and Pakistan over Kashmir issue, so discuss the role of OIC for India.
Pakistan has always used Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as a platform to gather support on the Kashmir conflict against India. In light of this statement, what is the significance of OIC for India?
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is generally supportive of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir. Discuss the importance for India to use the forum that could shore up New Delhi’s interests.
  • On August 5, 2019, the Government of India revoked the special status granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The 45th session of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)   () had a very strong statement on this event which "condemned" India and supported third-party intervention and self-determination.  
  • India has hit out at the OIC for making factually incorrect and unwarranted references to Jammu and Kashmir.
  • It is the second largest organization after the United Nations with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The Organization is the collective voice of the Muslim world.
  • It endeavors to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.
OIC’s stand on Kashmir
  • OIC supports of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir and has issued statements criticizing India.
  • Pakistan lobbied with the OIC for their condemnation regarding India revoked Article 370 in Kashmir. But Saudi Arabia and the UAE — both top leaders among the Muslim countries — issued nuanced statements, and were not as harshly critical of India as Pakistan had hoped. Since then, only a handful of Islamic countries — Turkey and Malaysia — publicly criticised India.
  • India has good relations with almost all member nations. Ties with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, especially, have looked up significantly in recent years.
India’s response
  • J&K is an integral part of India and is a matter strictly internal to India.
  • It has maintained its “consistent and well known” stand that the OIC had no locus standi.
  • India went a step ahead and said the grouping continues to allow itself to be used by a certain country “which has a record on religious tolerance, radicalism and persecution of minorities”.
Significance of OIC for India
  • India had more than 10% of the world’s Muslims. Bangladesh proposed that India be given the Observer status, but Pakistan opposed the proposal.
  • Hence, this shows that India has good foreign relations with almost all members of OIC except Pakistan and it is seen as a significant diplomatic advantage for New Delhi.
  • OIC also signals India's improved ties with both Saudi and the UAE, and the Gulf region as a whole. It indicates their desire to go beyond the bilateral ties and forge a true multifaceted partnership at the multilateral and international level.
Way Ahead
  • India now sees the duality of the OIC untenable, since many of these countries have good bilateral ties and convey to India to ignore OIC statements.
  • But these countries sign off on the joint statements which are largely drafted by Pakistan.
  • South Block feels it is important to challenge the double-speak since Pakistan’s campaign and currency on the Kashmir issue has hardly any takers in the international community.
  • OIC is a toothless tiger when it comes to dealing with tensions among member states. Since every member has veto power on its stand, nothing serious can be said, let alone done, about the many serious disputes between the member states that are now shaping the geo-politics.
  • Consensus-building for India’s entry in the grouping without Pakistan’s support is inconceivable. Thus, it remains in India’s interest to engage positively with Pakistan on this issue and collectively work for the ideals to which the OIC is committed.
GS Paper III: Indian Economy
Q1.  COVID-19 pandemic has to lead to economic disruption in the Indian economy so there is a high time to establish synergy between fiscal and monetary policy to bring holistic reforms. Discuss
In the wake of global anthropological shock COVID-19 pandemic, a sharp slowdown in economic growth and employment prospects is evident in the Indian economy. In light of this statement, what monetary and fiscal policy can be brought to ensure economic stability, growth and development?
  • With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s macro parameters have been thrown out of gear. It is time to reconsider India’s macro policy frameworks, not just in the light of their experienced weaknesses but also in view of India’s future needs and compulsions.
  • High fiscal deficit leads to more market borrowing by the governments. This results in crowding out of the private investment.
  • Government-determined purchase prices of agri-commodities through MSP, government subsidy levels on fuels and imperfections in agricultural markets, hinders the functioning of monetary policy. This creates a problem of non-coherence between the two policies.
  • New challenges also emanate from the evolution of cryptocurrency.
Coordination between Fiscal Policy and Monetary Policy
  • Any of these alone policy cannot deliver on inflation and growth.
  • It would be far better served to focus on bringing down fiscal deficit, if the government of India truly wants to reduce lending rates in a meaningful and sustained manner.
  • Separating debt management from monetary management in order to make the central bank more independent would be a good move.
  • COVID-19 pandemic has to lead to economic disruption in the Indian economy. However, it also provides an opportunity to carry out much need economic reforms. Establishing synergy between Fiscal and monetary policy can be a right step in pursuit of bringing holistic reforms.
  • The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic trends preceding it have highlighted certain infirmities and inconsistencies in India’s macro policy frameworks as consisting of fiscal and monetary policy frameworks.
  • These need to be recast and supplemented with an institutional framework such as the setting up of a Macro Policy Coordination Council which can coordinate between monetary and fiscal authorities. This become more relevant when we consider India’s contemporary economic challenges in the backdrop of the evolving global situation.
India’s unemployment challenge lies in its failure in not expanding formal and informal sector jobs. Comment.
Unemployment had grown tremendously is increasing so what measures should be taken to aid labour intensive industries?
  • The spectre of unemployment is stalking the country. After the pandemic broke out and the hasty lockdown followed, millions lost their jobs in industry, small businesses, service sector and, above all, in informal sector.
  • Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, unemployment had grown tremendously. Demonetisation and the implementation of the GST had affected petty producers and small enterprises leading to a steep rise in unemployment.
  • The Government has to play a very active role in creating jobs because India is faced with high unemployment rate of 7.3 percent. The results of 2200 companies reveal that there has been no increase in net sales or profits in Q3.
Steps to be taken
  • First and foremost, demand has to be revved up. There has to be an increase in government expenditure in labour intensive industries both in formal and informal sectors of Indian economy and it cannot just rely on monetary policy through interest rate cuts to stimulate demand.
  • Formalisation, urbanisation, industrialisation and improving human capital are the only ways to tackle our job problem.
  • According to popular Cambridge economist J.M. Keynes, at such times, it is better that people are employed to dig holes and fill them up than remain jobless.
  • Jobs will give money in the hands of people like daily wage labourers in construction work and their spending, though meagre, will increase. The construction industry is facing many problems like cost overruns which has slowed it down.
  • The Government has committed a huge amount for infrastructure projects and if they take off in a timely manner, jobs will be created.
  • Educational expansion affects the unemployment debate by decreasing the unemployment statistics and by creating greater competition for well-paid jobs among a rising population of educated youth.
  • Rising prosperity allows young graduates to wait for well-paying jobs, creating an army of educated unemployed, before being forced to accept any work, frequently returning to family farms or starting small shops.

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