Updated: Apr 9

In the absence of a concrete definition of “contempt of court”, the Indian courts are vested with immense power to scrutinize each and every act of a person which brings disgrace, dishonour or disrespect to the authority and administration of law, this is because the term in itself has multiple connotations of its own.

Under section 2 of Contempt of courts Act, 1971, contempt of court is divided into two categories;

  1. Criminal Contempt

  2. Civil Contempt

Section 2(b) of the Act deals with criminal contempt whereas section 2(c) of the Act deals with Civil contempt.


The purpose of enacting the Act was to safeguard the judicial system and interest of the citizens in general. The Act provides a system to prevent obstruction over the span of justice and to maintain the rule of the law, however, it is a weapon that must be utilized sparingly. The object of contempt procedures isn’t to shield judges but to secure the interest of the general population by protecting the authority of the court and the organization of justice from undue assault; notwithstanding, judges can’t utilize it to wreck individual retribution. On account of contempt which isn’t submitted even with the court, which might be portrayed as useful contempt, and which relies on the impedance of an aim to block the course of justice.


In order to give the idea of “contempt of Court'' a statutory backing, the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 was passed by the Indian parliament. In addition to the 1971 Contempt of Courts Act, Article 129, Article 142(2) and Article 215 of the Constitution of India authorize the Supreme Court and the High Court to punish individuals for their contempt. Section 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 put forth the authority of the High Court to punish contempt of its subordinate courts. Power to punish for contempt of court under Articles 129 and 215 is not subject to Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.



As per Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971,

Any deliberate disregard towards a judgment, decree, direction, order, writ, the undertaking given to the court, or other court proceedings amounts to Civil Contempt.


As per the language of Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971,

Any publication no matter whether it is by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:

(i) Scandalises or tends to scandalize, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court, or,

(ii) Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding, or,

(iii) Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner;

amounts to Criminal Contempt of Court.

There exists no uncertainty that the rationale behind introducing the provisions regarding contempt proceedings is to preserve the dignity of the courts and their image in the society. Through the help of this Act, it can be ensured that the courts are not portrayed in a bad way.

If the common man is directed to lose his regard for the judge acting in his legal obligations, at that point the certainty rested in the courts is very much shaken.


The Limitation period for contempt proceedings has been discussed under Section 20 of the 1971 Act, which tells us that the limitation period is of one year from the date on which the contempt is supposed to have been committed and after that, no action can be taken against the person.


P.N Duda Vs. V.P. Shiv Shankar & Ors

In this celebrated case the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that a judge can’t use contempt proceeding to safeguard his own dignity. India, which is a free marketplace for novel ideas, should welcome criticism about the judicial system or the judges. However, the criticism must not hamper the administration of justice.

In Re: Arundhati Roy

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, in this case, held that if the criticism of the behaviour of the judge and functioning of the judiciary will not be construed as contempt of court if the criticism is done in good faith and in the interest of the general public.


The contempt of courts Act 1971 is very much outdated in nature and needs restructuring in such a manner which will be adaptable in the current democratic ethos of India. Frequent and indiscriminate use of this power in anger or irritation has never helped and never will sustain the desired dignity of courts. Most of the contempt of court proceedings are taken in the same manner as it happened in strict liability offences.

The most basic and essential concept of natural justice must not be undermined under any conditions in contempt proceedings. One of the essential standards of natural justice, for example, is, no one must be a judge in his own case, must be applied in contempt procedures too. It is recommended that a specific bench of the court that blames an individual for acting in contempt ought not to hear the contempt case and pronounce a decision.

At least a minimum period of one week as a cooling-off period should be provided before the final judgment, so that the heat, temper, and anger that might influence the court’s judgment may cool down. Chief Justice of India should designate a panel to check the abuse of Contempt of Court power by any High Court judge.

In the event that the previously mentioned recommendations are actualized it will definitely make the law of contempt of court progressively successful and inculcate faith of the public in the judicial system.

41 views0 comments