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Report No. 274

F. Power of Parliament to Legislate on Contempt Jurisdiction:

2.51 The Supreme Court in Delhi Judicial Service Association, Tis Hazari Court, Delhi (supra), observed that Entry 77 of List I appended to VII Schedule to the Constitution, read with Art. 246 gives the Parliament the power to legislate upon subjects with respect to constitution, organisation, jurisdiction and powers of the Supreme Court. The Parliament possesses the competence to bring about a statute with regard to contempt of the Supreme Court, prescribe the procedure to be followed in such cases and set out the quantum of punishment for contempt.

However, the Court held that "the Central Legislature has no legislative competence to abridge or extinguish the jurisdiction or power conferred on this Court under Article 129 of the Constitution. The jurisdiction and power of a Superior Court of Record to punish contempt of subordinate courts was not founded on the court's administrative power of superintendence, instead the inherent jurisdiction was conceded to Superior Court of Record on the premise of its judicial power to correct the errors of subordinate courts."

2.52 In Supreme Court Bar Association (supra) the Court referred to Article 142(2) of the Constitution with regard to the power of the Court to investigate and punish any contempt of itself, observing that this power of the Court is 'subject to the provisions of any law made in this behalf by the Parliament'. The Court concluded thus:

"However, the power to punish for contempt being inherent in a court of record, it follows that no act of Parliament can take away that inherent jurisdiction of the Court of Record to punish for contempt and the Parliament's power of legislation on the subject cannot, therefore, be so exercised as to stultify the status and dignity of the Supreme Court and/or the High Courts, though such a legislation may serve as a guide for the determination of the nature of punishment which this court may impose in the case of established contempt.

Parliament has not enacted any law dealing with the powers of the Supreme Court with regard to investigation and punishment of contempt of itself. and this Court, therefore, exercises the power to investigate and punish for contempt of itself by virtue of the powers vested in it under Articles 129 and 142(2) of the Constitution of India."

2.53 In Re : Ajay Kumar Pandey, AIR 1997 SC 260, the Supreme Court observed that the Act 1971 cannot overarch the jurisdiction under Article 129 of the Constitution and this power of the Supreme Court cannot be denuded, restricted or limited by the said Act.

Review of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 Back

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