The Author is Sonali Agrawal pursuing B.B.A LL.B(Hons.) from Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal.

'Contempt of Court' Definition
"The term ‘contempt of court’ is a generic term which describes conduct relating to a particular procedure before a court which tends to undermine this system or to prevent citizens from using it to resolve their disputes". This definition by Lord Diplock when he rendered the judgment in the case of Attorney General v. Times Newspapers Ltd.

This term contempt of the court can easily be understood as when we are disrespectful or disobedient in court, which means that we do not voluntarily obey the court order or do not respect the legal authorities. The judge has the right to impose sanctions, such as fines, or may send the detainee to prison for a specified period, if the court finds him in contempt.

This term can also be understood in terms of freedom to limit the judicial process. As we know, all judges of the courts can initiate court proceedings which have a certain limit within which they are free to conduct any court proceedings and anything which restricts or interrupts them in the execution of any necessary court proceedings may mean contempt of court.
Halsbury, Oswald and Black Odgers also gave the court definition of contempt of court and, in addition, spoke of its abuse and misinterpretation and its broad perspective.

In India, the concept of Contempt of Court is defined in Section 2(a) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 which has broadly describe it as civil contempt or criminal contempt.
There are two Articles in the Constitution of India which talk about the Contempt of Court and these are Article 129 and Article 142(2).

Article 129
Article 129 states that the Supreme Court will be the "Court of Record" and has all the powers of those courts, including the power to punish for self-disrespect. Now we need to know the meaning of "Court of Record" to understand why something commented incorrectly against the court's decision leads to contempt by the court.
Here is the answer to this question. The "Court of Record" means a Court that has its acts and procedures recorded for eternal memory or that memory without end and as evidence or evidence. The veracity of these documents cannot be questioned and these documents are also treated as a higher authority. Anything declared against the veracity of these documents constitutes a contempt for the court.

Article 142(2)
 This article also talks about the Contempt of Court. This article says that when Parliament adopts a law on the provisions mentioned in clause 1 of this article, the Supreme Court has all power to order the guarantee of the participation of any person, the production of any document or the power to punish someone for their contempt.
This also does it mean that the Supreme Court can do anything against the right to individual liberty if it has the power to sanction disobedience in court. We know he is the custodian of all the rights we get from the Indian Constitution. Therefore, he must protect these rights and cannot violate them.

The origin of the contempt law in India can be traced back to English law. In England, superior court records were formed early, exercising the power to despise people who scandalized the court or judges. The right of the Indian higher courts to punish contempt was recognized for the first time by the Judicial Committee of the Private Council, which noted that the crime of disrespecting the court and the powers of the higher courts to punish it are the same in similar cases. case. courts like the Supreme Court in England. It also noted that the three letters of contempt. Almost all of India's High Court, with the exception of accredited higher courts, exercised the jurisdiction inherent in a court of archives by the very nature of the court. It has been accepted in court across India that jurisdiction is specific and inherent to the very nature of the Court.
India's first stature on law of Contempt, which means the Court of Contempt Act, was passed in 1926. It was enacted to define and limit the powers of certain courts to punish contempt for the court. When the 1926 Court Disdain Act (XII of 1926) existed in British India, several Indian states also had their corresponding promises. These states were Hyderabad, Madhya Bharat, Mysore, Pepsu, Rajastha, Travancore-Cochin and Saurasjtra.
State enactments of the Indian States and the Contempt of Courts Act, 1926 were replaced by the Contempt of Courts Act, 1952 (32 of 1952).
In April 1960, an attempt was made to introduce a bill into Lok Sabha to consolidate and amend the contempt law in court. In examining the bill, the government appears to have considered the law of court disdain to be uncertain, indefinite and unsatisfactory and that, in light of the constitutional changes that have taken place in the country, the entire law on the topic. by a special committee created for this purpose. Pursuant to this decision, a Committee was formed on July 29, 1961 and submitted its report on February 28, 1963 to define and limit the powers of certain courts to punish failure of the courts and to regulate their procedures in relation to them.
The Law Commission of India (Chairman: Judge BS Chauhan) presented its report on the Courts' Contempt Act of 1971. Contempt refers to the crime of disrespect for the dignity or authority of a court. The law divides contempt into civil and criminal contempt. Civil contempt refers to voluntary disobedience to a court order. Criminal contempt includes any act or publication that:
 (i) "scandalizes" the court, or
(ii) adjudicate any legal proceeding, or
(iii) Obstruct the administration of justice in any other way. "Scandalizing the court" generally refers to statements or publications that have the effect of undermining public confidence in the judiciary.
The report examines whether the definition of contempt in law should be limited to civil contempt, that is, intentional disobedience to court decisions. The Commission concluded that it was not necessary to amend the law for the reasons set out below:
High number of cases of Contempt Cases:
The Commission found that there were a large number of civil (96,993) and criminal (583) contempt cases pending in High courts and the Supreme Court. The Commission noted that the high number of cases justifies the continued relevance of the law. She said that changing the definition of contempt can reduce the overall impact of the law and decrease people's respect for the courts and their authority and functioning.
Source of power for contempt:
The Commission pointed out that the superior courts (Supreme Court and High courts) derive their powers from the lack of respect for the Constitution. The Act only describes the procedure to investigate and punish the lack of respect. Therefore, removing the crime from the Law will not affect the constitutional powers inherent in the higher courts to punish someone for lack of respect. These powers will continue to exist, regardless of the 1971 law.Impact on subordinate courts:
The Constitution allows superior courts to sanction your contempt. The Act also allows the High Court to punish subordinate courts for contempt. The Commission argued that if the definition of contempt were reduced, the subordinate courts would suffer, since there would be no recourse to deal with cases of contempt.
The Commission noted that changing the definition of contempt would cause ambiguity. Indeed, the superior courts will continue to exercise powers of contempt under the Constitution. If there is no definition of criminal contempt, the higher courts can give various definitions and interpretations of what constitutes contempt. The Commission suggested maintaining the definition to ensure clarity. 
Adequate guarantees:
The Commission noted that several safeguards were incorporated into the Act to protect against its misuse. For example, the law contains provisions that establish cases that do not constitute contempt and cases in which contempt is not punishable. These provisions suggest that the courts will not deal with all contempt cases. The Commission further noted that the Act had stood up to judicial review and that there was therefore no reason to change it.


The law of contempt provides courts with the necessary tools to verify attacks or unwarranted efforts to undermine the rule of law.

● Indian people have great confidence in the justice system, which is primarily responsible for the administration of justice.

● The Hadi Hussain J. in the Nasir Uddin Haider case, said that the 1971 Court Disdain Act had been enacted to dispel doubts about the powers of a High court.

● The aim and aim of the contempt of the judicial jurisdiction is to keep the majesty and dignity of the courts and their majesty in the public's mind and that this is not reduced in any way.


The scope of this Act is limited to the limits of the power of the courts to punish contempt of court and, to regulate its proceedings against it, this law applies to the whole of India. It is limited to the powers of the High courts to sanction and denounce with criminal contempt, including before the courts, magistrates or other persons acting in court. Its concept is broader than in the sense of the higher courts, but does not apply to the nyaya panchayats or other village courts.


The Contempt of the court is an extremely useful and powerful tool and can be broad against the parties to the case, the lawyer, the judicial officers and the witnesses. It can also apply to protesters against the court, order or trial outside the courtroom. After the revocation of various acts, contempt of the 1971 legal act came in order to reinforce the absence of civil and criminal disrespect of the court with the powers of the superior and supreme courts to punish in violation of this law.

types of contempt of court in India.

Types of Contempt of Court in India. Depending on the nature of the case in India, Contempt of Court is of two types.
1.      Civil Contempt
2.      Criminal Contempt

Civil Contempt
 Section 2(a) of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 states civil contempt as a voluntary disobedience to a person's order, decree, judgment, judgment or demand or an intentional violation of a person's court commitments. As civil Contempt deprives part of the benefit for which the claim was made, these are therefore essential private infractions. In other words, for a person who is entitled to benefit from the court order, that damage is usually caused to that person.
There is a case of voluntary disobedience to a court order that a person must be aware of.
  • Utpal Kumar Das v. Court of the Munsiff, Kamrup [1]

This is the case of not providing assistance, although the court has ordered assistance. Order enforced by the court for the delivery of real estate, but due to some obstruction, the defendant did not do so. Consequently, he was considered responsible for disobeying the orders of the competent civil court.
Another case is on the breach of an undertaking which leads to Contempt of Court.

  • U.P. Resi. Emp. Co-op., House B. Society v. New Okhla Industrial Development Authority[2]
In this case, the Supreme Court instructed the authorities in Noida to verify and declare the details of the affidavit provided by the people for the placement of the lots. Following the same instructions as the Supreme Court, a person from Mr. S filed a false statement to mislead the court. The Secretariat sent a statement of reasons against him to indicate why contempt should not be filed against him for cheating the Supreme Court.

Defences Against Civil Malpractice A person accused of civil negligence can rely on the following defences:
Lack of Knowledge of the order: A person cannot be held responsible for the negligence of the court if he does not know the order made by the court or if he pretends to ignore the order. There is an obligation for the winning party through the courts that the approved order must be enforced to the person by mail or in person or by certified copy. The convicted person can successfully claim that the certified copy of the application has not been officially delivered to him.
The disobedience or the violation practiced should not be: If someone begs under this defence, he can say that the act which he did was not done voluntarily, it was just a simple accident or he can say it is out of his control. But this declaration can only succeed if it is considered reasonable, otherwise it can be rejected.
The order you disobeyed must be vague or ambiguous: if the court-approved order is vague or ambiguous or if the order is not specific or complete in itself, a person can obtain the defence of contempt if she says something against that order.
  •  In R.N. Ramaul v. State of Himachal Pradesh[3]

This defence was raised by the defendant. In that case, the Supreme Court ordered the defendant's company to reinstate the plaintiff's promotion after a certain date in service. However, the defendant did not present the monetary benefit during the given period and a lawsuit was filed against him for Contempt to Court. He defends the defence based on the evidence provided that was not mentioned by the court to pay the material benefit. Finally, he receives the defence.

The orders involve more than one reasonable interpretation: if the disregard of the court order and the order appears to give more than one reasonable and rational interpretation and the defendant adopts one of these interpretations and works properly, he will not be responsible for the Contempt of the Court.
The order of order is impossible: if the execution of the order is impossible or cannot be done easily, it will be considered a defence in case of Contempt of Court. However, it is necessary to differentiate the case of impossibility from the case of simple difficulties. Because this defence can only be given if it is impossible to make a request.

Criminal Contempt
Pursuant to section 2 (c) of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971, Criminal Contempt is defined as (i) the publication of any matter by words, spoken or written, or by gestures, signs or by visible representation or (ii) perform any act which includes:
a) Scandalize or tend to scandalize, or diminish or tend to diminish the authority of a court, or
b) Prejudice interferes or tends to interfere in the course of any type of legal procedure, or
(c) obstructs or tends to obstruct, interfere or interfere with the administration of justice in any way.

Case on Scandalizing the Court:
  • Jaswant Singh v. Virender Singh[4]

In this case, a caste of lawyers attacks the High Court judge offensively and scandalously. An application was filed with an electoral petitioner at the High Court, who was a lawyer. He wanted to try to stick to new arguments in an electoral petition and also transfer electoral requests. These things provoke an attack on the High Court judicial process and tend to scandalize the Court. In the present case, there was an attempt to intimidate the Supreme Court judge and create an interface to conduct a fair trial.

punishments for contempt of court and remedies against an order of punishment.
Section 12 of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 deals with punishment for of Contempt of Court. The High Court and the Supreme Court have the power to punish someone for disrespecting the court. Subsection 12 (1) of that Act states that a person who alleges Contempt of Court can be punished with a simple prison sentence and that the prison sentence can be extended for six months, or a fine that can be extended to two thousand rupees or both types. punishment. However, an accused may be removed or the sentence imposed may be postponed, provided that if he makes an apology and the apology must satisfy the court, he alone can be exempt from of Court. The explanation for this sentence is that if the accused apologized in good faith, the apology will not be dismissed as conditional or qualified.
The court cannot impose a sentence for Contempt of Court in excess of what is prescribed in the given section of this law, neither against him nor against a court subordinate to him.

Section 13 has been added in the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 after amendment in 2006. The new law can be called The Contempt of Court (Amendment) Act, 2006. This article states that Contempt for the court cannot be punished. in certain circumstances or in certain cases.
Clause (a) of Section 13 of the Contempt of Court (Amendment) Act, 2006 states that no court will be penalized for Contempt the court under this Act, unless disrespect is likely to make it difficult or likely to significantly hinder the course normal justice.
Clause (b) of Section 13 of this Act states that of that the court may defend the truth if it considers that the act performed in the public interest and the request to invoke that defense are in good faith.

landmark judgements
  • Supreme Court Bar Association vs Union Of India & Anr[5]

In this case, the Judge held that procedural aspect for Contempt of Court may still be prescribed by the Parliament so that it could be applicable in the Supreme Court and the High Court. This means that Section 12(1) of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 which prescribed a maximum fine of Rs. 5000 and imprisonment for a term of six months shall be applicable in this case.
  • Zahira Habibullah Sheikh & Anr vs State Of Gujarat & Ors[6]

In this case, it was stated that the penalty for contempt in the 1971 Contempt of Court Act would only apply to the High Court, but serves as a guide for the Supreme Court, The sentence was not accompanied by rationality, which was worrying, because the Supreme Court had received great powers that the drafters of the Indian Constitution had also not granted.
  • Sudhakar Prasad vs. Govt. of A.P. and Ors.[7]

This case is also similar to the Supreme Court Bar Association Case. In this case, again, the Supreme Court declared that the power to sanction contempt was inherent in nature and that the provision of the Constitution recognized only the pre-existing situation mentioned above.
The provision of the Contempt of Court cannot be used to limit the exercise of jurisdiction given in Article 129 and Article 215 of the Constitution.
  • P.N. Duda vs V. P. Shiv Shankar & Others[8]

In this case, the Supreme Court observed that judges could not use contempt jurisdiction to defend their own dignity. Our country is the free market for ideas and nobody can limit themselves to criticizing the justice system unless this criticism hinders ‘administration of justice’.
  • R.Rajagopal vs State Of T.N[9]

This case is also known as the Auto Shankar case; In that case, Judge Jeevan Reddy invoked John Sullivan's famous doctrine. This doctrine states that the public should be open to harsh comments and accusations, provided that they are diligently done in good faith, even if this is not true.
  • In Re: Arundhati Roy[10]

In this case, the Supreme Court observed that noted that fair criticisms of the conduct of a judge or the institution of the judiciary and its role cannot be ignored if they are made in good faith and in the public interest.
  • Indirect Tax practitioners’ Association v. R.K. Jain[11]

In this case, the Supreme court observed that the defence of the truth can be granted to the person accused of contempt if both conditions are met. They are: (i) if it is in the public interest and (ii) the request to invoke the defence to be made in good faith. These are given in Section 13 of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971.
  • Justice Karnan’s Case

He was the first sitting High Court Judge to be jailed for six months on the accusation of Contempt of Court. In February 2017, a legal action was brought against him after having charged twenty judges of the corruption branch of the higher judiciary of Corruption. He wrote a letter to Prime Minister Modi against it, but did not provide any evidence against him.

The existing role relating to contempt of lower courts is unsatisfactory and misleading in India. It appears that evidently, the difficulties are in this regard overlap of contempt powers under the Indian Penal Code, Contempt of Courts Act and contempt powers of the Supreme Court and High Court under the Indian constitution. The scenario is seen as more complicated by way of the inconsistent interpretations followed through the Supreme Court and High Court regarding diverse provisions under the Indian Penal Code dealing with interference with the administration of justice and exclusion clause contained in the Contempt of Courts Act. Not only the higher court should be given the power to deal with contempt but also the lower court should be given this power. Contempt of Court if seen from the perspective of the judges, higher judicial officials seem good but if it comes to the perspective of common people it turns towards its bad effect. With this conclusion my hypothesis is partly correct and partly incorrect.

[1] Utpal Kumar Das v. Court of the Munsiff, Kamrup, AIR 2008 Gau 62: 2008 (2) Gau LR 706.
[2] U.P. Resi. Emp. Co-op., House B. Society v. New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, AIR 2003 SC 2723.
[3] R.N. Ramaul v. State of Himachal Pradesh,  AIR 1991 SC 1171
[4] Jaswant Singh v. Virender Singh, 5332(NCE) of 1993.
[5] Supreme Court Bar Association vs Union Of India & Anr, AIR 1998 SC 1895.
[6] Zahira Habibullah Sheikh & Anr vs State Of Gujarat & Ors, (2004) 4 SCC 158.
[7] Sudhakar Prasad vs. Govt. of A.P. and Ors.,  (2001) 1 SCC 516.
[8] P.N. Duda vs V. P. Shiv Shankar & Others, 1988 AIR 1208.
[9] R. Rajagopal vs State Of T.N, 1995 AIR 264.
[10]Re:Arundhati Roy…. … vs — on, 2002 AIR (SCW) 1210
[11] Indirect Tax practitioners’ Association v. R.K. Jain, NO.9 OF 2009.