Contempt in Face of Court- Court can Take Action even without Issuance of Notice- Supreme Court

March 13, 2019

Case name: National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms & Ors.  v. Union of India & ors.

The case at hand pertains to petition lodged by Shri Mathews Nedumpara, wherein he alleged that Judges of the Court are wholly unfit to designate persons as Senior Advocates, as they only designate Judges’ relatives as Senior Advocates.

The accusations and averments made by the Shri Nedumpara were judged to be contemptuous by the Supreme Court.

In view of the accusations and prayers made by Shri Nedumpapa and the settled law in this regard, the Bench held that in cases of criminal contempt in the face of the court, it does not preclude the court from taking recourse to summary proceedings and the procedure prescribed under Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 for issuance of notice need not be followed. The Court further observed as under:

  • That if lawyers can be bold enough to file writ petitions against judges of a High Court on observations judicially made by a Judge of the High Court, the very independence of the judiciary itself comes under threat.
  • While referring to the averments made by the Petitioner, the Apex Court opined that the said advocate has embarked on a course of conduct which is calculated to defeat the administration of justice in this country.
  • The Court also noted that when contempt is committed in the face of the Court, judges’ hands are not tied behind their backs. The majesty of this Court as well as the administration of justice both demand that contemptuous behavior of this kind be dealt with sternly.
  • The Apex Court while passing it’s order in the case, heavily relied on it’s judgment in the case of Leila David v. State of Maharashtra[1], where the issue before the Court was whether contempt in the face of the Court can be dealt with summarily, without any need of issuing notice to the contemnors, and whether punishment can be inflicted upon them there and then?

The Supreme Court in Leila David case observed as under:

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 and the public at large, including Senior Law Officers, such as the Attorney General for India who was then the Solicitor General of India.

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. However, where an incident of the instant nature takes place within the presence and sight of the learned 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.

The entire case can be accessed here.

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[1] (2009) 4 SCC 578