Judicial Reforms

Reviewing the Contempt of Courts Act


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization & functioning of the Executive & the Judiciaryt

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, Article 142(2) of the constitution, Law Commission of India (Evolution, Historical perspectives, Key recommendations), Twenty-First Law Commission (2015-2018)

Mains level: Role of Law Commission in Legal Reforms

Contempt of Courts Act

  1. The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 is one of the most powerful statutes in the country.
  2. It gives the constitutional courts wide powers to restrict an individual’s fundamental right to personal
    liberty for “scandalising the court” or for “willful disobedience” of any judgment, writ, direction or
  3. The offence of “scandalising the court” continues in India even though it was abolished as an offence in
    England and Wales long ago

What Law Commission Report said?

  1. Deleting the provision relating to ‘criminal contempt’ inter alia ‘scandalising of courts’ will have no impact on the power of the Superior Courts to punish for contempt (including criminal contempt) in view of their inherent constitutional powers, as these powers are independent of statutory provisions
  2. The report stated that there is no point “tinkering” with the 1971 Act. The statute only lays down the procedure in contempt cases
  3. The powers of contempt of the Supreme Court and High Courts are independent of the Act 1971
  4. The contempt powers of the higher courts are drawn from the Constitution itself
  5. Article 142(2) enables the Supreme Court to investigate and punish any person for its contempt
  6. It empowers the High Court to act if someone is in contempt of the subordinate courts
  7. Diluting the Act would expose the subordinate judiciary to acts of contempt of court


Law Commission of India

  1. It is an executive body established by an order of the Government of India. First law commission of independent India was established post the Independence in 1955
  2. Composition: Chairman, 1 Permanent Member, 1 Member Secretary, 2 Part-time Members, 2 ex-officio
    members. (21 st Law Commission Chairman: Justice BN Chauhan)
  3. Tenure: 3 Years
  4. Function: Advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice for “Legal Reforms in India”
  5. Recommendations: NOT binding
  6. First Law Commission was established during the British Raj in 1834 by the Charter Act of 1833
  7. Chairman: Macaulay
  8. Recommended for the Codifications of the IPC, CrPC etc.

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