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Report No. 274

Chapter - VI

What does not Amount to Contempt

6.1 Section 13 of the Act 1971 postulates no punishment for contemptuous conduct in certain cases. As a general guideline, it provides for no punishment unless the court is satisfied that the contempt is of such a nature that "substantially interferes, or tends substantially to interfere with the due course of justice". In fact, Section 13, as amended in 2006, under its sub-section (b) allows for justification by truth to be raised as a valid defence against contempt, if the court is satisfied that it is in public interest and the request for invoking the said defence is bona fide.79

6.2 In M.V. Jayarajan v. High Court of Kerala & Anr. (2015) 4 SCC 81, the Court held that right to freedom of speech and expression postulates a temperate and reasoned criticism and not a vitriolic, slanderous or abusive one. Such right certainly does not extend to inciting public directly or insidiously to disobey Court order. But, no one can scandalise the Court using abusive and pejorative language against the judiciary.

6.3 In B.K. Kar v. Hon'ble the Chief Justice and his companion Justices of the Orissa High Court & Anr., AIR 1961 SC 1367, the Supreme Court observed that where the order of the Court is not complied with, mistakenly, inadvertently or by misunderstanding the meaning and object of the judgment, charges of contempt cannot be levelled, because it is quite possible that the disobedience is accidental.

6.4 The Supreme Court while striking a balance in relation to the invoking of provisions of contempt held that a mere allegation of social intimacy between a party in litigation and a judicial officer does not amount to an act of criminal contempt (vide Gobind Ram v. State of Maharshtra, AIR 1972 SC 989.

Review of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 Back

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