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Odisha v. Andhra Pradesh: Contempt of Court?

The State Government of Odisha has approached the apex court for initiating contempt proceedings against the State of Andhra Pradesh. The proceedings are the consequence of a border dispute. The former has alleged the latter of violating the existing state of affairs by taking over certain villages belonging to itself as agreed upon between the two, more than 50 years ago. The advocate presenting the case before the Chief Justice termed it as a grave constitutional crisis.

The villages in question are that of Kotia group and the same were the subject matter of a former suit filed by the Odisha Government in 2006. However, the suit was dismissed as it was considered non-maintainable under Article 131 of the constitution that vests the Supreme Court with original jurisdiction over any dispute arising between the states or between the center and state. Nevertheless, the order passed by the Court in the matter, recorded the earlier undertaking given by both the states in 1968 to maintain status quo. It is the violation of this undertaking agreed upon with the consent of both States, mentioned in the order that gives rise to the contempt petition. The AP government is not only alleged of taking over the three Gram Panchayats but also of holding elections in these territories in the near future. Odisha claims that the villages have always been under its administrative control and that it has undertaken several developmental activities in the region over the years. It further relies upon the Electoral Rolls prepared by the Election Commission of India to argue that the voters of these villages fall within Koraput Constituency of Odisha.

“Contempt” literally means disrespect or disgrace. The judiciary of India that is the Indian legal System hold an important position in law. The legal system of India is based on the Rule of Law which means that the law is supreme. To protect the justice system, laws on contempt of court have been made wherein the Supreme Court under Articles 129 and the High Court under Article 215 have been given the powers to adjudicate and punish for contempt.

In accordance to the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 section 2(a) there are two types of contempt :- Civil and Criminal contempt of court. Criminal contempt is when there is obstruction of judicial proceedings or scandalizing judicial proceedings whereas Civil contempt of court is when there is willful disobedience of any judgement, decree, writ, etc. made by the judge as in the present case the accused has been accused with.

The petition seeking urgent listing was agreed to be heard by the Court today i.e. 12th February, 2021.

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