• Contempt Of Courts

  • Contempt of Courts could be Civil contempt or Criminal contempt.

    Civil contempt "means wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court. 

    Criminal contempt "means the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which- 

    • scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court ; or
    • prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding; or 
    • interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner ;
    • "High Court" means the High Court for a State or a Union territory, and includes the Court of the Judicial Commissioner in any Union territory.

    In India the higher judiciary has inherent powers of contempt. Purpose of the Contempt of Court, 1971 is to secure feeling of confidence of people in general and for due and proper administration of justice in the country. The Courts exercises contempt jurisdiction sparingly with care and caution. Still, the Contempt of Court law is very complex by its very nature.     

    In P. N. Duda Vs. P. Shiv Shankar (AIR 1988, SC 1208 at 1213), a cabinet minister of the Government of India was exonerated though he had compared the judges of the Supreme Court to 'anti-social elements, foreign exchange violators, bride burners and a whole horde of reactionaries who have found their haven in the Supreme Court'. The court said that the speech of the minister had to be read 'in its proper perspective' and, when so read, it didnot bring the administration of justice into disrepute! But in a later case (also reported)- Mohd. Zahir Khan Vs Vijai Singh and Others (AIR 1992, SC 642)- an impetuous (but insignificant) litigant, merely said in a loud voice in court: 'Either I am anti-national or the judges are anti-national.' He was immediately cited for contempt, pronounced guilty and sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment for one month.

    Purpose, Extent & Scope, etc. of the Contempt Proceeding

    1. In order to be guilty of contempt an intention has to be there to act in violation of the Court's order, that is, to consciously defy the Court.
    2. Court has to be restricted to the prayer made in application and its scope cannot be enlarged
    3. this power has to be cautiously exercised- It may not be used as a tool for revenge; this discretion also may not be exercised on mere allegations.
    4. The purpose of the Contempt of Courts Act is securing a feeling of confidence amongst people and for due and proper administration of justice, the power should be exercised with utmost care and caution and sparingly only in the larger interest of the society.
    5. Law of contempt primarily, intended to maintain dignity of court. This jurisdiction is invoked when offending acts are intentional and/or motivated and/ or attempt has been made to earn small gains at the cost of hurting system of administration of justice.
    6. Wilful conduct is the primacy and basic ingredient of the offence of contempt and is sine qua non for bringing home imputation of guilt The captioned subject is complex by its very nature. We, therefore, always encourage our visitors & Clients to seek an independent legal advice by our empanelled lawyers. In such Cases, our lawyers devise most appropriate legal recourse for our Clients after examining the related provisions of law, i.e Even otherwise, the question as to how to apply the laws, judgments and citations is rather more complex, as it involves a thorough examination of substantial laws, procedural laws and Court precedents in a given set of facts and circumstances.

    Competent Courts & Fora

    • High Courts of various States
    • Hon'ble Supreme Court Of India.  

    Legal Provisions Governing The Contempt of Court 

    Contempt of Courts Act. 1971

    • Section-2: Definitions
    • Section-10: Power of High Court to punish contempt of subordinate courts
    • Section-12: Punishment for contempt of court
    • Section-16: Contempt by judge, magistrate or other person acting judicially.
    • Section-17: Procedure after cognizance.
    • Section-18: Hearing of cases of criminal contempt to be by Benches.
    • Section-19: Appeals
    • Section-20: Limitation for actions for contempt.

    Relevant provisions of the Law

    The Contempt of Court Proceeding are governed by the Contempt of Court, 1971. When it comes to the application and invocation of the Contempt of Court, 1971, it got to be read with the Article-215 of the Constitution of India. Relevant provisions of law, as contained in the Contempt of Court Act and the Constitution of India are given hereinunder:   

    Contempt of Court Act, 1971

    Section-12. Punishment for contempt of court.- (1) Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act or in any other law, a contempt of court may be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, or with both. :

    Provided that the accused may be discharged or the punishment awarded may be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court.


    Explanation.-An apology shall not be rejected merely on the ground that it is qualified or conditional if the accused makes it bona fide. 

    (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, no court shall impose a sentence in excess of that specified in sub-section (1) for any contempt either in respect of itself or of a court subordinate to it. 

    (3) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, where a person is found guilty of a civil contempt, the court, if it considers that a fine Will not meet the ends of justice and that a sentence of imprisonment is necessary shall, instead of sentencing him to simple imprisonment, direct that he be detained in a civil prison for such period not exceeding six months as it may think fit. 

    (4) Where the person found guilty of contempt of court in respect of any undertaking given to a court is a company, every person who, at the time the contempt was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to, the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the contempt and the punishment may be enforced, with the leave of the court, by the detention in civil prison of each such person: 

    Provided that nothing contained in this sub-section shall render any such person liable to such punishment if he proves that the contempt was committed without his knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent its commission. 

    (5) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (4), where the contempt of court referred to therein has been committed by a company and it is proved that the contempt has been committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other officer of the company, such director, manager, secretary or other officer shall also be deemed to be guilty of the contempt and the punishment may be enforced with the leave of the court, by the detention in civil prison of such director, manager, secretary or other officer. 

    Explanation.-For the purpose of sub-sections (4) and (5),- 

    (a)" company " means any body corporate and includes a firm or other association of individuals ; and 

    (b) "director", in relation to a firm, means a partner in the firm. 

    Constitution of India,1950

    Article-215. High Courts to be courts of record.- Every High Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.

    Contempt Of Court: Judgments

    There is a plethora of case law on the subject of `anticipatory bail'. The following are a few of them:

    1. Court on its own Motion v. Farah Khatoon[DB], Cont. Cas. (Crl) 9/2013(20/12/2013), 2014(3) AD(Delhi) 342: 2014(1) JCC 662 [Kailash Gambhir, J.: Indermeet Kaur, J.]
    2. State vs Bhavani Singh". AIR 1968 Delhi 208.
    3. Kapildeo Prasad Sah & Ors. Vs. State of Bihar & Ors., (1999) 7 SCC 569,
    4. Jhareswar Prasad Paul and Another Versus Tarak Nath Ganguly and Others, 2002 Crl.L.J. 2935
    5. Patel Rajnikant Dhulabhai & Anr. Vs. Patel Chandrakant Dhulabhai & Ors.,(2008) 14 SCC 561
    6. M.C. Mehta Vs. Union of India and Others, (2003) 5 SCC 376
    7. Deepak Khosla v. Montreaux Resorts Pvt. Ltd.[DB], Letters Patent Appeal No. 16/2012(24/04/2012), Letters Patent Appeal No. 16/2012 [Sanjiv Khanna, J.: R.V. Easwar, J.]-In the Case the Hon’ble High Court declined the motion, holding, inter alia, the direction to appellant, as passed by the subordinate Court, were stringent, severe, deleterious & unsustainable and therefore liable to be set aside.
    8. Shri Baradakanta Mishra v. The Registrar of Orissa HC and Anr., State of Orissa v. Shri Baradakanta Mishra & Anr., AIR 1974 SC 710- Opportunity to contemnor, scope- Held, a contemnor must always be given an opportunity to repent- The repentance on the part of the contemnor and tendering of unqualified apology should be permitted to help him escape from rigorous punishment.
    9. Vitusah Oberoi Vs Court Of Its Own Motion, Criminal Appeal No.1234 Of 2007, Judgment Dated-02.01.2017, Bench-T.S. Thakur, CJI, & A.M. Khanwilkar- Cognizance of the contempt of a superior Court like the Supreme Court of India.

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