Contempt of Court Ordinance, 1998

Ordinance X of 1998


An ordinance to regulate the exercise

of the powers of courts to punish for contempt of court


WHEREAS clause (3) of Article 204 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan provides that the exercise of the power conferred on courts to punish for contempt may be regulated by laws:


AND WHEREAS the National Assembly is not in session and the president is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action;


NOW, THEREFORE, in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 89 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the President is pleased to make and promulgate the following ordinance:-


  1. Short title and commencement.-


(1)        This Ordinance may be called the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 1998.


(2)        It extends to the whole of Pakistan.


(3)        It shall come into force at once.


  1. Definition.- In this Ordinance,-  (a)  ‘Academic critique’ means an article written by a lawyer or a person holding an academic post containing an analysis of a judgment on the basis of legal criteria or desiderata;


(b)   ‘Civil contempt’ means the wilful flouting or disregard of –


(i)    an order, whether interim or final, a judgment or decree of a court;

(ii)    a writ or order issued by a court in the exercise of its constitutional jurisdiction;

(iii)   an undertaking given to, and recorded by, a court; (iv) the process of a court;


(c)    ‘Criminal contempt’ means the doing of any act with intent to, or having the effect of, obstructing the administration of justice;


(d)    ‘Judicial contempt’ means the scandalization of a court and includes personalized criticism of a judge while holding office;

(e)    ‘Notice’ means a notice other than a show-cause notice issued by a court;


(f)    ‘Pending proceedings’ means proceedings which have been instituted in a court of law until finally decided after exhausting all appeals, revisions or reviews provided by law or until the period of limitation therefore has expired; provided that the pendency of an execution application shall not detract form the finality of the proceedings.


(g)    ‘Personalized criticism’ means a criticism of a judge or a judgment in which improper motives are imputed; and


(h)    ‘Superior court’ means the Supreme Court or a High Court.


  1. Jurisdiction.- (1)  Every superior court shall have the power to punish a contempt committed in relation to it.


(2)        Subject to sub-section (3), every High Court shall have the power to punish a contempt committed in relation to any court subordinate to it.


(3)        No High Court shall proceed in cases in which an alleged contempt is punishable by a subordinate court under the Pakistan Penal Code (Act No. XLV of 1860).


  1. Punishment.- (1)  Subject to sub-section(2), any person who commits contempt of court shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to six months simple imprisonment, or with fine which may extend to one hundred thousand rupees, or with both.


(2)        A person accused of having committed contempt of court may, at any stage, submit an apology and the court, it satisfied that it is bona fide, may discharge him or remit his sentence. Explanation.- The fact that an accused person genuinely believes that he has not committed contempt and enters a defence shall not detract from the bona fides of an apology.


(3)        In the case of a contempt having been committed, or alleged to have been committed, by a company, the responsibility therefore shall extend to the persons in the company, directly or indirectly, responsible for the same, who shall also be liable to be punished accordingly.


(4)        Notwithstanding anything contained in any judgment, no court shall have the power to pass any order of punishment for or in relation to any act of contempt save and except in accordance with sub-section (1).


  1. Criminal contempt when committed.- (1)  A criminal contempt shall be deemed to have been committed if a person-


(a)    attempts to influence a witness, or proposed witness, either by intimidation or improper inducement, not to give evidence, or not to tell the truth in any legal proceeding;

(b)    offers an improper inducement, or attempts to intimidate a judge, in order to secure a favorable verdict in any legal proceedings;

(c)    commits any other act with intent to divert the course of justice;


(2)        Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall prejudice any other criminal proceedings which may be initiated against any such person as is mentioned therein.


  1. Cognizance of criminal contempt.- In the case of a criminal contempt a superior court may take action;


(i)         suo motu, or


(ii)        on the initiative of any person connected with the proceedings in which the alleged contempt has been committed, or


(iii)       on the application of the law officer of a provincial or the federal government.


  1. Fair reporting.- (1)  Subject to sub-section(2), the publication of a substantially accurate account of what has transpired in a court, or of legal proceedings, shall not constitute contempt of court.


(2)        The court may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, in the interest of justice, prohibit the publication of information pertaining to legal proceedings.


  1. Personalized criticism.- (1) Subject to the provisions of this Ordinance, personalized criticism of a specific judge, or judges, may constitute judicial contempt save and except if made in good faith and in temperate language in a complaint made:-


(a)    to the administrative superior of a judge of a subordinate court; or

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