Introduction: Meaning of Contempt of Court

In simple terms, the contempt of Court means disobeying the order of the Court in any form of the behavior that opposes the authority, justice, and dignity of the Court. The Contempt of Court Act, 1971 describes the various provisions related to contempt. The objective of the act states that the Act defines and limits the powers of certain courts in punishing contempt and to regulate their procedure in relation thereto. As per section 2(a) of the Act, “Contempt of Court” includes:

1. Civil Contempt
2. Criminal Contempt

When a person may be held liable for contempt of Court:

Some of the most common reasons include:
a. Failing to obey an order of the Court (as long as the order the lawful).
b. Showing disrespect for the judge or others in the Courtroom, including violent behavior.
c. Disrupting the Court’s proceedings with noise or other incidents.
d. Publishing material likely to prevent one of the parties from receiving the fair trial.

Civil Contempt

Section 2(b) of the Act provides for the definition of Civil Contempt. It says that civil contempt is willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ, or other processes of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a Court.

Criminal Contempt

Section 2 (c) of the Act provides for the definition of criminal contempt. It says that the criminal contempt is the publication (whether 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,
(ii) Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding,
(iii) Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.


Section 12 of the Act provides the punishment of the Contempt of Court Act. The act of a Contempt of Court is punishable with the imprisonment which can extend up to 6 months and also the fine of Rs. 2000/-. However, with an apology letter, the accused can be remitted from the punishment provided the Court is satisfied.

Cases connected with Contempt:

(i) In Re. Arundhati Roy’s case the Supreme Court held the fair criticism against the Judge cannot be regarded as the contempt if it is made in good faith and public interest.

(ii) In P.N. Duda vs. Shiv Shankar, the Supreme Court held that the judges cannot use the contempt for upholding their dignity. India is a democratic country and every person has the right to profess their Fundamental Right of Freedom of speech and expression and no one could be restricted to criticize the judicial system. Therefore, any person can express his or her opinion, provided the “administration of justice” is not hampered.

(iii) In the Indirect Tax Practitioner’s Association vs. R.K. Jain, the Supreme Court observed that the defence of truth can be permitted to the person accused of contempt if the two conditions are satisfied. These are:

(i) if it is in the interest of public and
(ii) the request for invoking the said defence is bonafide.
These are given in Section 13 of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971.


The concept of contempt started with the medieval period. In that time the king was regarded as the superior person and neither he nor his kingdom was supposed to disrespect the order passed by him. The same power has been transferred from the king to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court under Article 129 and 142 vests the same power. Article 129 states that the Supreme Court is considered as the Court of record and shall have the powers to punish for the contempt of itself. Article 142 empowers the Supreme Court to pass such a “decree or order as may be necessary for doing complete justice between the parties”.

Limitation Period

Section 20 of the Contempt of Court Act states that in two circumstances the Supreme Court will not file the complaint about contempt:

1. When more than one year has been passed from the date of the incident of the Contempt.

2. When the proceedings are on his motion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This field is required.

This field is required.


The following disclaimer governs the use of this website (“Website”) and the services provided by the Law offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate & Associates in accordance with the laws of India. By accessing or using this Website, you acknowledge and agree to the terms and conditions stated in this disclaimer.

The information provided on this Website is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice or relied upon as such. The content of this Website is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Firm. Any reliance on the information provided on this Website is done at your own risk.

The Law Firm makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of the information contained on this Website.

The Law Firm disclaims all liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this Website or for any actions taken in reliance on the information provided herein. The information contained in this website, should not be construed as an act of solicitation of work or advertisement in any manner.