Enquiry Commission is not a Court under Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

Supreme Court: In the instant case the question arose that whether an enquiry commission setup under Commissions of Enquiry Act, 1952 and headed by a Supreme Court judge falls under the category of ‘Court’, therefore, whether the contempt of the chairman amounts to the contempt of Supreme Court, the Constitution Bench comprising R.M Lodha, CJ. and A.R Dave, S.J Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and S.K Singh, JJ.,  answered the question in negative, holding that a Commission despite being headed by a Supreme Court judge and having a legal character is not a ‘Court’ for the purposes of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

The facts in the instant case are that Kuldip Singh, J was appointed as chairman to probe into the omissions and commissions of Mr. Ram Krishna Hegde, former CM of Karnataka in 1990. The respondent who was then the editor of The Indian Express published an article criticizing the chairman, therefore leading to the initiation of the present contempt petition. The Solicitor General Mr Mohan Parasaran was present in the Court while the respondent was represented by Mr Ashok H. Desai.

The Constitution Bench observed that the functions of a commission appointed under the 1952 Act are not like a body discharging judicial functions or judicial power. The Constitution Bench relying upon Ram Krishna Dalmia v. S.R.Tendolkar, AIR 1958 SC 538, and horde of other cases on the same point and agreeing with the contention of the Solicitor General observed that a Commission appointed under the 1952 Act is in the nature of a statutory Commission and merely because a Commission of Inquiry is headed by a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court, it does not become an extended arm of this Court. As regarding contempt, the Bench stated that Section 10A of 1952 Act empowers the High Courts to take cognizance of the complaint in respect of the acts calculated to bring the Commission or any member thereof into disrepute.

Dr. Subramanian Swamy v. Arun Shourie, Contempt Petition (Crl.) No. 11 of 1990, decided on 23.07.2014

To read the full judgment, refer SCCOnLine

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