• kewal sethi

contempt and contemptible

contempt and contemptible 

one of the anomalies of system of justice is the contempt proceedings. the high courts and supreme courts can punish the person for its own contempt. here is a abnormality. the person is complainant as well as the judge. does it not go against the fundamental principle of justice? the provision was originally meant to uphold the majesty of justice. an order passed by such exalted courts should not be disobeyed for that would hurt the roots of justice. but of late, that part is secondary. the main agenda has become to save the judges from unwarranted comments either about their judgments or their conduct otherwise. so far as the former is concerned, there can still be some explanation but for the latter, there is hardly any. the law of the land is there to protect the reputation of any person, including the justices.

it surpasses all imagination when this privilege is sought to be carried into retirement. as is well known, the retired judges get all sorts of enquiries and head commissions. they become lokayaukts. they become arbitrators. they get commissions from courts to hear evidence or inspect places and organizations. they head private organizations. their duties are multifarious. in some they hear the stake holders and decide whether they deserve any concessions from normal laws and procedures. (for example sachchar commission). they have to find out if human rights have been violated. they are investigating authorities (lokayukts). they have their counterparts from the administrative services (members of human rights commissions, information commissioners, arbitration authorities). if the judges get the right to carry their powers to commit for their perceived contempt, should their counterparts also not get the same powers. and why not the senior officers in the government. they also stand exposed to similar accusations about their private life as the judges. should they also be allowed to conduct trials for their contempt and pronounce punishments?

it is not a hypothetical question. there are instances when accusations have been made regarding conduct of the judges which are not related to discharge of their judicial duties. these include helping the relatives to get advantages. and it is not hypothetical situation either. there are reports that lokayukts are claiming right to initiate their contempt proceedings by themselves. they are investigating officers. they do not have judicial functions. they merely report to the government their findings. it is for the government to initiate proper court proceedings. but if they desire these powers because they had such powers when in service, would it be justified. complaint about misdirected investigation is not contempt. any charges not relating to investigations are personal matter for which they have the right like any citizen to initiate proceedings in a proper court.

this required a consideration in depth before such powers are granted.


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