Author: Muskaan Vijay National Law University, Odisha
The segregation of India’s superior courts from public governance has been among the main shortcomings of the law on contempt in India. It is this privilege that laid the groundwork for arbitrary action, which, in turn, led the independent jurors to trust in their rightness, thus trying to stifle any dissent that might emerge in the context of criminal disrespect. The lack of specific law regulating the conduct between both the official misconduct for the seat of fairness and the disdain for the intellect of the judges who grace that seat has formed a gaping void in the legal and social ideology of that nation. It has sparked a lot of unpredictability between the bar and the populace, who, often enough, intentionally or unintentionally suffer due to the narrative, that enforcing the credibility of the high chair of justice is a result of the underlying immunization of judiciary from intense attention or condemnation, and anything that enlivens their dignity of the individual inherently calls contempt for the court.
A whole other part of this unpredictability is that even the jurors of the Record court system, as compared to the jurists of the district court, could not be held to have been in disdain of their very own court system. This has been extensively established in the case of C.S. Karnan, in which the Apex Court had to take Suo moto cognizance to start the hearings against a High Court jurist, according to Article 129, since he could not have been expected to hold to be in disrespect of his tribunal. It is because of this uncertainty that the Jurors of the Records Court are excluded from the ambit of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, which supposedly aims to preserve the judicial process, while ignoring the fact that fairness is an indivisible term. Whereas the 1971 Act and the Apex Court, by their numerous decisions, had worked to bring a stop to this confusion, the uncertainty over, inter alia, what constitutes criminal contempt for the court, who retains protection from it, and the degree with which the undetermined rights of contempt in the Record Courts may be extended or limited, could not be easily circumvented.
This Act was enacted to preserve the integrity of the court system and required dignity for the judicial system. Nevertheless, it is noted that such rights of disrespect are frequently in use by jurors in a manner that supports them instead of preserves the seat of fairness. This arbitrary action is highlighted on two different levels. In the precedent of the Registrar General v. Smti. Patricia Mukhim, a juror of the High Court of Meghalaya, brought an infringement case against a reporter on the grounds that she reportedly used social networking sites to claim that the jurist, who had been on the edge of retirement, passed orders of a self-serving sort. The criterion for the determination of contempt of court was overlooked by the Jury, as much his decision didn’t address that the contents written by the reporter were degrading in essence. In the case of Re Arundhati Roy, the highest court brought a claim of disdain against the writer simply because it hastened several of its conduct and alleged that the plaintiffs had used the good offices of the Apex Court to suppress dissension. This judgment challenged the integrity of the Apex Court as a counter-majority body, inasmuch as it found it to be disdainful, the very nature of the case.
It is important to remember that, though we talk of the place of justice as an immutable term, section 16 of the Act reflects this rule, in so far as it recognizes that sometimes a judge may be accused of disrespect in his trial. This stance was echoed in the matter of Chhitij Kishore Sharma v. Justice Lok Pal Singh, which claimed that the pure excuse provided by the courts in doing so was not the same. This fundamentally highlights the fact although the jurors of the district courts may still be found in contempt of its chair of justice, the justices of the Higher Courts are exempted from such disrespect, thereby suggesting that the seat of the fairness of the Higher Courts seems to be at a greater level, a paradigm which is entirely contradictory to the undivided theory of fairness envisioned in our constitution. By doing so his highest court moves away from both the core objectives of the principles of fairness, i.e. its indivisibility and its autonomy. In the absence of democratic accountability, these unspecified and broad abilities of the justices of the Higher Courts can place anything inside the scope of the “interruption of the justice system” as a condition precedent in order to reduce dissension, thereby weakening the unalienable right of freedom of speech of the individuals.
The abilities conferred on the Courts of Record to penalize them for their disrespect end up leaving much more to the authority of the justices in interpreting what defines contempt of court. Besides that, by immunizing these justices from trying to commit disdain with their court system, this authority inherently tends to put them at a greater position than the rule of law. We thus call for such legal significant progress into the Act which put the Justices of the High Court and the Apex Court into the framework of the Act.