The Bombay High Court has dismissed a petition challenging the constitutional validity of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, filed by Advocate Satish Uke who in February was held guilty of criminal contempt and sentenced to two months in prison and asked to pay a sum of Rs. 1 lakh.
The Nagpur bench of the high court had pronounced this order on Feb. 28, after beginning dictation a day earlier.
The petitioner sought a declaration that Sections 2(c), 12, 14 and 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 are unconstitutional and void, “inasmuch as they violate Part III of the Constitution of India and the principles of natural justice”.
Apart from this, Uke sought criminal contempt proceedings initiated against him by the Nagpur bench to be declared unconstitutional.
Advocate Mathews Nedumpara argued on behalf of Uke before a bench headed by Justice SC Dharmadhikari.
He submitted that “if the requirements of elementary principles of criminal jurisprudence are not read into the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, and which ensure a fair trial, then, the Act itself is liable to be declared as unconstitutional, null and void. Therefore, in order to save the Act from the vice of unconstitutionality, the court must read in it the principles of criminal jurisprudence and Articles 13(2), 14, 19, 20(3) and 21 of the Constitution of India so also the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872”.
The court noted that the petitioner chose to wait for the ultimate outcome of proceedings initiated against him by the Nagpur bench, instead of raising all the above contentions when criminal contempt proceedings were initiated in the first place and tried to “pre-empt the final judgement that was pronounced hence challenged the constitutional validity to the Contempt of Courts Act”.
Upon perusal of Section 19 of the Contempt of Courts Act, the bench observed: “A bare perusal of this provision would indicate as to how, where the order or decision is that of a single Judge, the appeal shall be heard and determined by a Bench of not less than two Judges and where the order or decision is that of a Bench the appeal lies to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
We are not a superior or higher court. We are but a coordinate Bench of the same court. The principal seat of this court cannot be said to be an appellate court and which can set aside a judgment of the Division Bench of this court rendered at Nagpur. Similarly, it has no powers by which it can issue binding directions to its own Benches or overturn or reverse their orders and judgments.”
Thereafter, the court made several observations against entertaining such pleas at the principal bench and stated that in two judgments of the Supreme Court in the case of In re Arundhati Roy and CK Daphtary and Ors vs OP Gupta and Ors, the Contempt of Courts Act 1971, was held to be constitutionally valid.
Finally, the bench concluded that the petition was not maintainable and dismissed it.
Read the Judgment here.