oppn parties Refusing to Answer Questions is Not Contempt of Court

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  • Mobile operators Vodafone-Idea and Airtel decide to raise tariffs from next month
  • Sharad Pawar meets Sonia Gandhi and says more time needed for government formation in Maharashtra
  • Justice S A Bobde sworn in as the 47th Chief Justice of India
  • Supreme Court holds hotels liable for theft of vehicle from their parking area if parked by valet, says "owner's risk" clause is not a shield from such liability
  • Finance Minister says she is receiving feedback from many sectors that recovery is happening as there is lower stress
  • Sabarimala temple opens, but police bar the entry of women below 50 years
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says Air India and BPCL to be sold off by March
  • Media person Rajat Sharma resigns as DDCA president
  • Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress postpone meeting the governor of Maharashtra
  • Shiv Sena not to attend the NDA meeting on 17th November, says break up "a formality"
  • Shiv Sena says that the confidence the BJP is showing about forming the government in Maharashtra is based purely on its expectation of getting numbers through horse trading
  • Anil Ambani resigns as director of the bankrupt Reliance Communications
  • India beat Bangladesh by an innings and 150 rums inside three days in the first Test. Indian pacers excel after Mayank Agarwal's double century
  • Sena-NCP-Congress work out a common minimum programme, will form the government soon and it will last 5 years, says Sharad Pawar
  • Income Tax Appellate Tribunal upholds the decision to withdraw the charitable status of Young India, making it liable to pay Rs 145 in income tax. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra are the majority shareholders in the company
Two Muslim litigants in Ayodhya refuse to accept the Supreme Court order, say review petition might be filed
oppn parties
Refusing to Answer Questions is Not Contempt of Court

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Sub-section 3 of Article 20 provides that “no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.” It is a well established principle of law that no one can be forced answer questions in court that can be used later to incriminate him in another case. Ignoring this, the Delhi High Court had pulled up an accused for not answering question posed by it and initiated contempt of court proceedings against him.. In the case Kuldeep Kapoor vs Sushanta Sengupta, the accused Kuldeep Kapoor had allegedly submitted forged documents and false affidavits in court. Those affidavits provided false addresses. When the court asked him about the discrepancy, the accused remained quiet and refused to answer the question.

Taking this as an affront to the court that lowered its dignity and impeded justice, the court ordered contempt proceedings. But if the accused refused to answer the questions, he was protected by sub-section 3 of Article 20 of the constitution. Having allegedly submitted fabricated documents in court, if he had answered the question about the address, whether in the affirmative or not, he could have been pulled up under section 191 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). So the accused was just refusing to be a witness against himself and hence, no contempt proceedings could be initiated only for that reason.

The Supreme Court was clear about this and hence dismissed the case in Kuldeep Kapoor and ors. vs Court on its own Motion in a very short order. While stating that the accused did not behave in a manner that could be construed as contemptuous, it also stated that proper notice was also not served on them under section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. While the apex court did not refer to the right under Article 20, it is implicit in the manner in which the court chose to set aside the contempt order. The court said “we feel that the entire exercise done under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 was not proper and therefore we set aside the impugned order imposing punishment upon the appellants.”