Category Archives: contempt

Contempt of Court amendments rejected (Myanmar/Burma)

Mizzima provided a brief update on the Pyithu Hluttaw Judicial Committee’s complaints process. According to Chairman Thura Aung Ko, the committee has been overwhelmed with over 3,000 letters of complaint. The committee has looked into 1,000 letters thus far and forwarded others to other parliamentary committees.

In other news, the Pyithu Hluttaw has rejected amendments to the draft contempt of court bill. The bill, in its current form, would impose six months in jail, a fine of up to 100,000 kyats, or both for contempt of court. Independent MP Thein Nyunt criticized the draft as too harsh. The draft would provide too much protection for judges and risk punishing relatively innocuous comments about judges. It might also dampen efforts to tackle judicial corruption if newspapers and citizens cannot talk freely about judicial corruption.
Of course, contempt of court is a serious offense and risks obstructing justice. From a comparative perspective, many common law countries impose strict sentences and criminal fines for contempt (Canada imposes up to two years imprisonment). However, the definition of contempt must be carefully constructed in order to avoid stifling legitimate discussion of courts. In the U.S., contempt is defined as behavior that disrupts court proceedings or enforcement of court orders. Commentary on judges’ decisions is not contempt. 
Myanmar’s draft contempt of court bill is not yet available. However, the law was drafted by the Supreme Court, suggesting it will be relatively protective of judges. Hopefully, before the draft is passed, the Hluttaw debates the exact scope of contempt and not just the sanctions.

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Filed under Burma, contempt, Myanmar

Contempt of court bill (Myanmar/Burma)

According to The New Light of Myanmar, the Pyithu Hluttaw passed a contempt of court bill. Unfortunately, no details yet.

Contempt of Court Bill passed for freedom of jurisdiction and public trust in judicature

Nay Pyi Taw, 28 Jan- The Pyithu Hluttaw passed the Contempt of Court Bill at today’s session to ensure freedom of jurisdiction, and public trust in judicature.

Daw Khin Than Myint of Ngaputaw Constituency as regards the bill suggested that legislations which should be known by the general public should be explained widely to the public in simple and comprehensible terms.

As regards the question about if there is any plan to retire the government staff members who have reached 60 so as to give promotion to experienced and skilled staff in respective government institutions, Union Minister at the President Office U Soe Maung replied that some those who have reached 60 were assigned as advisors according to work requirements.

If there are government staff members to be assigned as advisors, it is required to submit to the President Office and the approval is subject to decision of cabinet meeting.

Some of the major reasons behind such appointment are incompetency of the potential substitute and the superior’s lack of confidence in potential substitute’s performance.

In some ministries, a government official is trained to take the duties of higher positions, two levels higher in echelon as well as lower positions, two levels lower in echelon. He suggested that every staff member is to continuously try to perform the assigned duties efficiently.

Quality determines the position, especially those to be promoted to higher positions in technical field are to always try to meet the demands. There will be places for deserving young blood. In the future, those who have reached 60 would not be appointed as advisor but technician, concluded the Union Minister. The questioner U Aye Mauk said if they are appointed as technician and not as advisor, there would be vacancies for the qualified ones, calling for legislation of it if necessary.

U Thein Nyunt of Thingangyun Constituency submitted a proposal urging the Union government to consider the existing rates of court fee and stamp fee adjusted depending on Notification Nos. 122/2012 and 123/2012 of the Finance and Revenue Ministry on adjustment of court fee and stamp fee rates and Legislation Nos. 3 and 5 of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw which amend the court fee and tax fee laws.

Deputy Minister for Finance and Revenue Dr Lin Aung replied that the rates were adjusted in line with the changing conditions and asked to document the proposal.The proposer agreed his suggestion and the Hluttaw decided to document the proposal. The tenth day session continues tomorrow.-MNA

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Filed under contempt, courts, judicial reform

Contemptuous contempt

The Supreme Court recently dismissed a complaint by several losing litigants against three Court of Appeals judges. Of course, losing parties often have an incentive to complain that decision was not fair. However, the Supreme Court then turned around and threatened the complainants with contempt “for degrading the judicial office of respondent Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals, and for interfering with the due performance of their work for the Judiciary.” You can read more about the current case here.

One of the themes that emerged from Marites Vitug’s Shadow of Doubt is that the Supreme Court protects its own. While the Supreme Court has every right to dismiss frivolous complaints against judges, is it taking things too far to threaten contempt? The real concern is that overusing contempt might discourage legitimate and useful public scrutiny of the courts. There is some research suggesting that public accountability, transparency, and media attention are key to improving judicial independence and quality.

This issue came up before when several law professors publicly complained that Justice del Castillo had plagiarized a U.S. law review article – a serious charge made by serious individuals. Then as now the Supreme Court accused them of contempt. Congress is in the process of deciding whether to impeach Justice del Castillo. However, it would probably be better for the courts if the public rather than the Congress acted as the judicial watchdog.

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Filed under contempt, Philippines, Supreme Court