New Delhi, Oct 27 : The Supreme Court has ruled that the power of contempt cannot be exercise by a court in an arbitrary manner as the objective of such proceedings should be to ensure its order is complied with.
Also the courts should not necessarily proceed against such persons as if they are petty criminals.
A bench of Justices S B Sinha and Cyriac Joseph observed, "The purpose and object of initiation of a proceeding under the provisions of the Act (contempt) is only to see that the order of the court is complied with and not to necessarily proceed against persons as if they are petty criminals."
The apex court, while dropping the contempt proceedings initiated by the Calcutta High Court against two members of a TV production company, observed that a person cannot be sentenced on mere probability.
"Willful disobedience and contumacious conduct is the basis on which a contemnor can be punished," added the apex court. While contempt of court is a matter that had to be dealt with all seriousness, the burden of proof should be upon the person who made such an allegation, it said.
The Calcutta Electricity Company Ltd (CECL) had filed a Rs 20 crore defamation suit against a production house, Three Cheer Entertainment Private Limited, for its programme "Khoj Khabar" aired on ETV (Bangla) in which allegations of corruption in the government owned company were made.
Following which, the Calcutta High Court had initiated contempt proceedings against director and an employee of the production house.