Tradition is the backbone and fiber of our nation. Rising for the judge literally means showing respect for the court of law and it is continued as a tradition. In the early period of England, the judge appeared with a Bible in the royal courts, considered to be the very law itself. So the people simply stood to honour the Bible and show respect for the king or queen and for the person who personified the Bible at the moment. It is pretty much the same today. We are a nation of laws and we settle our legal issues in solemn, respectful courts of law through an ethical way. Simply it is a procedural formality to stand when the judge enters the courtroom and like other procedural formalities it has both a symbolic purpose and a very real purpose.
Judge: Ultimate Representative of Law
However, it is the law for which we show respect by standing and the judge is the representative who not only represents the ultimate authority in the court, but also the law. There are statutes governing procedures by which the judge may enforce decorum in his or her courtroom, as expressed in a local rule which is within every court’s inherent authority. Depending on the jurisdiction, that may be or may not be codified in a statute or court rule, but it is included as a common law. Even if a local rule is not present, if the judge notice someone who can be both layman or lawman not standing, and that person was not physically prevented from doing so, the judge can order the person to stand, and again under the court’s inherent power to maintain authority in the courtroom, can then punish any further misbehaviour as contempt of court.
Contempt of Court: Punishment and Remedy
Generally, it depends on the judge, he may completely ignore it, or if he finds someone in criminal contempt of court, he may sentence the person to up to six months on the spot, or if he finds someone in civil contempt of court, he may lock the person up until that person agrees to stand.
According to Section 12 of Contempt of Court Act, 1971, the wrongdoer may be punished with simple imprisonment for six months, or with fine of two thousand rupees, or he may be awarded with both imprisonment and fine. However, in civil cases, if the courts may think it fit that a simple monetary fine will not be sufficient and a sentence of imprisonment is necessary for the justice, instead of sentencing with simple imprisonment, the court may direct that the wrongdoer be detained in civil prison for six months. The court may only impose any sentence for contempt of court which is prescribed in the law but may not direct any sentence which is in excess of the section.
According to the provision under Section 12(1) of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971, if the Court satisfies, the accused may be discharged and the punishment awarded to him may also be remitted if apology by the accused being made. The Court is not bound all the time to accept the apology, there should be a real feeling of repentance in the contemner, only then the Court may think it fit to discharge the accused. By simply feeling sorry the contemner cannot be discharged as the way of apology. The apology should not be tendered with the object to punishment, but it should be sincere and made in good faith with the real feeling of repentance. Acceptance of apology depends on factors like attitude of the contumacious conduct, his past record etc. When the Court considers that the apology tendered in the court is not sufficient, may direct that the apology must be made to the Court before the public.
But, there is one way to get around refusing to rise before the court without being held in contempt of court – citing religious freedom. U.S. v. Ali, (8th Circuit) the court ruled that since the defendant, a Muslim woman, explained to the lower court that she did not rise before the court for religious reasons she could not be cited with contempt of court.
It can be concluded from the researched facts mentioned that citizens not only are punished if they disobey the law, but also if they fail to show it respect. The judge may be known or unknown to someone, but it is irrelevant, when presiding over a case, he or she represents the state’s judicial system, which must be respected. Our judicial system was developed to maintain order in our society and judiciary should be appreciated for its probity and objectivity. The courtroom is where the interpretation of our laws occurs and the judges on the bench are the interpreters of our laws, good, bad or indifferent, and are equally deserving of our respect.
This article is authored by Ananya Mondal, 2nd-year student of 3-Year LL.B. at Haldia Law College.