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This article is written by M.S.Sri Sai Kamalini, a  fourth year student currently pursuing BA.LLB (Hons) in School of law, SASTRA. This is an exhaustive article which deals with the various contempts of the lawful authority of public servants.     

Introduction

Public servants in India ensure the smooth functioning of all aspects of the government. They are responsible for various procedures that help in the investigation and court proceedings. Contempt of acts done in their lawful authority leads to disorder and chaos in the process.  The definition for public servants is mentioned under Section 21 of IPC. As we all know justice delayed is justice denied, thus hindering the process leads to a great disadvantage to the public and public servants. The article explores the various offences and punishments of those offences that are considered as contempt.

Offences Relating to Contempt of the Lawful Authority of Public Servants

Chapter X  of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) exclusively talks about the offences relating to contempt of lawful authority. The main offences are:

  • Prevention of service of summons.
  • Absconding from a place in order to escape from proceedings.
  • Non-attendance and nonappearance. 
  • Omission to produce relevant documents .
  • Producing false information.
  • Refusal to sign and take an oath.
  • Obstructing the sale of property or illegal purchase.
  • Threatening the public servant who is responsible.

Offences Relating to Avoidance or Prevention of Summons:

Section 172 of the IPC provides the punishment if the person absconds intentionally from a place in order to avoid being served with the summons. The punishment is usually simple imprisonment which may extend up to one month or fine which may extend up to five hundred rupees.Section173 of the IPC speaks about the prevention of summons intentionally. There are various acts that are considered as an offence under this section:

  • Removing the fixing summons. 
  • Preventing the affixing of lawful summons.
  • Preventing the lawful making of any proclamation.

The punishment is for preventing the summons intentionally is usually simple imprisonment which may extend up to one month and fine which may extend up to five hundred rupees. There is also another situation provided in this two-section, if the summons, notice or order is to attend in person or by agent or it is in regards to the production of documents, the person who avoids or prevents such summons will be punished with simple imprisonment of six months or with fine which may extend up to one thousand rupees.

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Offences Relating to Non-appearance in Response to a Proclamation

Section 174 of the IPC is concerned with offences relating to nonappearance in response to a proclamation. Section 174 A inserted by the 2005 amendment is a very important improvement under this chapter as it prevents the nonappearance in the response of proclamation. Section 174 A deals with nonappearance in response to proclamation provided under Subsection 1 of Section 82 of the Code of criminal procedure. Section 8282 of the criminal procedure code deals with the proclamation for person absconding. If the court has all reasons to believe that the person has absconded or is concealing himself so that the warrant cannot be executed then the court can publish a written proclamation asking him to appear within thirty days. The punishment provided under section 174A is imprisonment which may extend up to seven years and also fine. Since the punishment is hard people fear and appear to the proceedings on time.

The Delhi High Court held in the case of  Deepak Saha v State, proceeding under section 174 A of the IPC could be only started if the person is declared as a proclaimed offender and section 174 A of the IPC cannot be added by the investigating officer before declaring the person to be proclaimed offender.

Offences Relating to Production of Documents

Production of proper documents is very essential in every procedure. Documentary evidence holds a lot of value in the investigation. If the documents are not provided properly the procedure and investigation will become tedious. Section 175 of the IPC deals with the intentional omission of production of documents to public servants and Section 176 deals with the intentional omission to give notice or information. Section 177 of the IPC deals with the furnishing of false information. The various ingredients of this section according to the case of  Bishan Dass v State of Punjab and another

  • The person must be legally bound to produce information on a particular subject to a public servant.
  • He must furnish that information as true information which he knows to be false.

Offences Relating to Statements on Oath

Section 178 of the IPC deals with refusal of oath or affirmation when necessary and the punishment under this section is simple imprisonment which may extend up to six months and a fine of rupees thousand. Section 179 and 180 deal with the refusal to answer the questions by a public servant and refusal to sign statements provided by them respectively.

The punishment for not answering the question properly is simple imprisonment for a term which may extend up to six months or fine of thousand rupees. The punishment provided under Section 180is simple imprisonment which may extend up to three months and a fine of rupees five hundred. Section 191 of IPC is concerned with providing false evidence against public justice whereas Section 181 of IPC deals with providing false evidence to the public servant. 

False Information Causing Wrongful use of Power by Public

Section 211 of the IPC deals with false charges of offenses that are made with the intention to injure another person. Giving false charges is a very heinous offence that affects everyone involved in the process of providing justice. 

Section 182 of IPC is an invaluable section under this chapter. This section deals with providing false information to the public servants in order to cause injury to the other person by using the lawful authority of public servants. For example, if a person informs a magistrate that a police officer did not do his work properly even though it’s false. If the magistrate believing the complaint takes action on police officer then it would amount to an offence under Section 182

The ingredients of Section 182 are:

  • The information provided to the public servant must be false.
  • The information is provided to a public servant to do not to do anything if the true state of facts respecting which such information is given was known by him.
  • The information is provided to misuse the powers of the public servants in order to annoy the other person. For example, if a person provides false information to the police that his neighbor has illegal weapons in order to misuse the powers of police and to annoy the neighbor by searching his place.

The main necessity to be convicted under this section is that the person complaining must know it is a piece of false information, if the person has all reasons to believe it is a piece of true information then they cannot be convicted under this section. The same is provided in the case of  Santosh Bakshi vs State of Punjab and others. Section 183 to 185 of the Indian Penal Code deals with offences relating to the sale of property effected through the legal process. The main offences are:

  • Resistance to the taking of property by lawful authority.
  • Obstructing the sale of the property.
  • Illegal purchase or bid for property offered.

The punishment provided in Section 183 of the IPC for resistance to the taking of property is imprisonment for six months or fine of thousand rupees or both. The punishment for obstructing the sale of the property is imprisonment of a term of one month or fine of five hundred rupees. Section 185 of the IPC provides punishment for illegal purchase or bid for property offered, the punishment is imprisonment for a month or fine which may extend up to two hundred rupees.

Offences Relating to Disobeying or Non-enforcing Order of Public Servant

According to Section 186 of the IPC, if a person voluntarily obstructs any public servant who is discharging his public functions, it would be considered as an offence and the person can be punished with imprisonment of either term which may extend up to three months or fine of rupees five hundred or both. Whenever there is a need to assist the public servant and if a person intentionally omits it, then he can be punished under Section 187 with simple imprisonment which may extend to one month or fine which may extend up to two years. Section 188 of the act deals with disobedience to order that is duly promulgated by the lawful authority. The main ingredients under Section 188 are:

  • There should be a valid order or promulgation.
  • The person must be aware of the presence of such promulgation or order.
  • The disobedience must be voluntary.
  • The disobedience causes or tends to cause obstruction or annoyance.
  • The disobedience causes or tends to cause danger to life, health or safety.
  • It tends to cause a riot or an affray.

If the disobedience causes obstruction or annoyance then the person can be punished with simple imprisonment which may extend up to a term of one month or fine which may extend up to two hundred rupees. If it causes danger to life healthy or safety then the person can be punished with imprisonment of either term which may extend up to six months or fine that may extend up to a thousand rupees. The Supreme Court said that the Maharashtra police can initiate criminal action under Section 188 of the IPC for sale, stocking, and transportation of Gutka as the disobedience to the order affects life and health.”Section 188 of the IPC does not only cover breach of law and order, the disobedience of which is punishable. Section 188 is attracted even in cases where the act complained of causes or tends to cause danger to human life, health or safety as well,” the court said.

Section 189 of IPC provides protection to the public servants against any threat from the public. The threat of injury can be for two reasons, it can be used to induce the public servant to do any act that is unlawful or it can be used to restrict the servant from doing his duty. The person who is providing with such a threat can be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to two years or with fine or both. Section 190 gives protection to the public and it enables them to get help from the public servants. If any person holds out any threat of injury to the person who makes the legal application and prevents them from getting help from lawful authorities then the person can be punished under section 190 with imprisonment which may extend up to a year or with fine or both.

Proposals for Reform

There is a need for amendments in various aspects of this chapter so that it would be useful for public servants to perform their duty. There are various ideas of reforms which are as follows:

  • The punishments must be added on in various sections, instead of increasing the terms of imprisonment the fine amount can be increased which would make these sections more effective.
  • The term punishment and the fine amount must be increased to the offences relating to avoidance or prevention of summons, as it is the first step in the process of investigation and if it gets delayed the entire process would be affected.
  • Disobedience of order or promulgation provided by the public servants must be considered seriously as it affects the process and it is a heavy threat to the safety and public order.
  • Giving false information to the public servants is a very grievous issue as it wastes the time of public servants and it also provides unnecessary tension to the public. Thus fine amounts to these offences must be increased in order to prevent such offences in the future.

Conclusion

The public should realize that the public servants are there for their protection and should always aid in the process of investigation. They should always try to cooperate with the public servants always. The contempt of the lawful authority of public servants must be prevented for the smooth functioning of various parts of the judicial process. Thus the Sections under chapter X could be more effective if necessary amendments are brought in.


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