Report No. 274
Chapter - VII
Conclusions and Recommendation
7.1 The Supreme Court of India has recently published a report with respect to the cases relating to contempt of courts in respective High Courts 82. The abstract of the report (may kindly see Annexure I) shows the number of cases from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. A total number of 568 criminal contempt cases and 96,310 civil contempt cases were found pending in the High Courts. The Orissa High Court leads in criminal contempt cases with 104 pending matters, and the Allahabad High Court is having 25,370 pending civil contempt cases. "Indian Judiciary", Annual Report 2016-17, published by the Supreme Court of India.
7.2 So far as the Supreme Court is concerned, as of April 10, 2018, a total number of 683 civil contempt cases and 15 criminal contempt cases have been shown as pending (may kindly see Annexure II).
7.3 These cases in civil and criminal contempt matters represent the high number of incidents of interference with 'due course of justice' - by wilful disobedience of judgments or orders as well as by other means of lowering the authority of court, such as 'scandalising the court', among others.
In general, these numbers reflect on the tendency of contemnors to act derogatorily with reference to the judiciary and interfere with the administration of justice, which cannot be acceptable. The discussion in the preceding chapters and the aforesaid figures emphasise on the glaring occurrences of criminal contempt, which unabatedly continue and establish the relevance of the provisions concerned in the Act 1971.
7.4 The above figures also highlight the situation which is in contrast in the case of India when compared to the situation obtaining in the United Kingdom, which prompted them, in 2013, to abolish the offence of 'scandalising the court' as a ground for criminal contempt. The reported incidents and the dimensions thereof, which can be gathered from the available data, clearly distinguish the circumstances, and therefore, it may not be appropriate to draw a comparison between the two without delving in to such circumstances.
In England and Wales, prior to its abolition, the offence of 'scandalising the court' had almost fallen into disuse by the end of the nineteenth century, only to be revived in two cases in the 20th century with the last prosecution of the offence occurring as long ago as in 1931.83 Therefore, by virtue of doctrine of desuetude the law pertaining to offence of 'scandalising the court', with its long and continued non-use, stood to be insignificant.
7.5 In India, on the other hand, the number of cases of criminal contempt (disposed of and pending) highlight a different picture. Furthermore, the amendment in the United Kingdom, deleting the words 'scandalising the court' did not change the situation vis-à-vis such offences as they continue to be punishable under other existing statutes - the Public Order Act, 1986, and the Communications Act, 2003; which is not the case in India, where deletion of 'criminal contempt' from Act 1971 will leave a palpable legislative gap.