SC cautions on use of contempt of court power

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New Delhi, Aug 10 (UNI) The Supreme Court, refusing to subscribe to the 'slap-say sorry and forget' school of thought, has cautioned the judiciary to use the contempt of court power only in exceptional cases.

A bench comprising Justices C K Thakkar and Aftab Alam also ruled that mere disobedience of an order of the court is not enough to hold a person guilty of civil contempt and the element of willingness is an indispensible requirement to bring home the charge within the meaning of the act.

The apex court in its judgement also noted ''there can be no laxity in such a situation because otherwise the court's order would become a subject of mockery.

Misunderstanding of the court's order would not be a permissible defence.

Contempt is undoubtedly a powerful weapon in the hands of judiciary but that by itself operate as a string of caution and cannot be used unless the court is satisfied beyond doubt that the person had deliberately and intentionally violated the order.

The power under the act must be exercised with utmost care and caution and sparingly in the larger interest of the society and proper administration of justice delivery system.'' Justice Thakkar, writing judgement for the bench, also refused to subscribe to the 'slap-say sorry and forget' school of thought in the administration of contempt jusrisprudence.

The apex court while sentencing the contemners Chandrakant Dhulabhai Patel and others to 14 days simple imprisonment also noted ''We are also satisfied that the so called apology is not an act of penitence, contrition or regret.

It has been tendered as a tactful move when the contemners are in the tight corner and with a view to ward off the court.

It is well settled that an apology is neither a weapon of defence to purge the guilty of their offence; nor is it intended to operate as a universal panacea.

Acceptance of such apology in the case in hand would be allowing the contemners to go away with impunity after committing gross contempt of court.'' UNI SC JT BD1922

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