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Contempt of court - Shivendra nath mishra


In the past few days, contempt of court is a burning topic of discussion. Attorney General Kottayan Katankot Venugopal recently granted consent to eight people, including lawyers and law students, to start contempt of court proceedings against Kunal Kamra (a famous stand-up comedian) for his tweets criticizing the Supreme Court for fast-tracking the hearing of Arnab Goswami’s bail appeal. In his consent letter, He said that Kunal Kamra’s tweets were highly objectionable and it also constitutes criminal contempt of court. The Prashant Bhusan case is also in public attention in the last month. He made an assertion against the judicial system of India twice in two days through his Twitter handle. The first assertion was identified with the undeclared crisis with the part of Supreme Court and last four Chief Justices of India and the other one is related to the current Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde driving a motorcycle without wearing a mask during the lockdown after COVID-19 in Nagpur, Maharashtra. The Supreme Court at that point took Suo Moto perception against Prashant Bhushan after a complaint filed by Mahek Maheshwari. Hence, the current issue has indeed brought under the spotlight on the requirement for investigating the law on Contempt of Courts.


“Contempt alludes to the offense of showing disrespect to the decorum or authority of a court. The Act divides contempt into civil and criminal contempt. 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 the court. Criminal contempt is an act which may result in scandalizing the court by lowering its authority or Interfering in the judicial proceeding or obstructing in the administration of justice.” As per the Contempt of Court Act, 1971.

As per Lord Diplock on account of Attorney-General v. Times Newspapers Ltd, The term ‘Contempt of Court’ is a nonexclusive term engaging of direct about specific procedures during a courtroom which will in general sabotage that framework or to subdue citizens from profiting themselves in the resolution of their matters.


In English and Wales law on contempt is the Contempt of Court Act 1981 has provisions for the maximum sentence for this crime is of two years.

The British Crown Court has the facility to punish for contempt of its own motion when it notices disobedience of a writ or breaches of undertakings to the court. Where it is important to act rapidly the appointed authority (even the preliminary adjudicator) may act to sentence for contempt.

Under American law, demonstrations of contempt are isolated into immediate or backhanded and civil or criminal. Contempt directly happens within the sight of an appointed authority; civil contempt is “coercive and therapeutic” instead of corrective.

Direct contempt happens within the sight of the managing judge and might be managed immediately the adjudicator informs the culpable party that the person has acted in a way that upsets the court and biases the organization of equity. Indirect contempt happens outside the prompt presence of the court and comprises of non-compliance with a court’s earlier request. In the Chadwick v Janecka Case, a federal court offers had held that a man Batty Chadwick could be held inconclusively under government law, for his inability to deliver US$2.5 million as state court requested in a common preliminary. Chadwick had been detained for a very long time around then and kept on being held in jail until 2009, when a state court set him free following 14 years, making his detainment the longest on a charge of contempt to date.


The offense of Contempt of courts in India was set up in the common law system. The earliest recorded punishments contained in the Regulating Act of 1773 which expressed that the recently framed Mayor’s Court of Calcutta would have similar power as a court of the English King’s Bench to rebuff people for contempt. All Courts set up in India under colonial rule observed the common law rule that all ‘courts of record’ had the characteristic capacity to punish for contempt. High Courts set up in Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras as courts of record accordingly practiced the intensity of disdain to punish people for meddling with the administration of justice. 

Article 129 and 215 of the Indian Constitution gives power to the Supreme Court and High Court individually to punish individuals for their particular contempt. Article 142 of the Constitution of India also empowers the SC to punish for its contempt.

The Contempt of Courts Act 1926 was instituted to determine a contention of feelings between High Courts in India on whether they could punish offenses of hatred submitted against other, subordinate courts that fell under their purview. The 1926 Act explicitly avowed this power and permitted the High Courts to punish contempt against subordinate courts. 

In 1952, the Contempt of Courts Act was supplanted by another enactment of a similar name, which extended the ability to penalize for contempt from High Courts to different courts also.

H.N. Sanyal committee in 1961 was designated to look at the application of Contempt laws in India. The Sanyal Committee suggested that Contempt proceedings should be started not by the courts themselves, but rather on the recommendation of a law official appointed by the government. These suggestions were fused in the Contempt of Court Act 1971, which is the current legislation administering contempt of courts in India. To limit the powers of the courts the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 was amended in 2006 by the government, which now provides truth as defense provided it is bona fide and in the public interest.

The Contempt of Court Act, 1971 sets out the method to be proceeded in contempt cases. It additionally says that the offense is culpable with straightforward detainment for a term which may stretch out to a half year, or with a fine which may reach out to Rs 2,000 or both.

However, Section 12 of the Contempt of court Act also adds an exception to the punishment prescribed. “Provided that the accused could even be discharged or the punishment awarded could even be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court,” the law says. Therefore, in the Prashant Bhusan case, an assertion of expression of remorse to the court by Prashant Bhushan would allow the court to let him off without punishing despite the fact that the SC has seen him as blameworthy of contempt of court.


According to the International Commission of Jurists, the conviction has all the earmarks of being conflicting with worldwide guidelines on the opportunity of articulation and the function of legal advisors. The Contempt laws are additionally conflicting with the opportunity of articulation law ensured by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is likewise against the overall insurance of free discourse and articulation in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It expresses that all individuals are brought into the world free and equivalent in pride and rights. They are supplied reasonably and inner voice and will act towards one another during a feeling of fraternity.

According to the United Nations Principle 23 on the character of Lawyers, Attorneys will reserve the option to participate in the open conversation of issues concerning the law, the organization of equity, and in this way the advancement and security of basic liberties. These rules were embraced by the eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Cuba in 1990.


The contempt of court ought not to be permitted to be utilized as a way to curb criticisms and in the age of digital media, other than the need to go back to the law on contempt of court, even the test for contempt should be assessed.

The Law Commission of India held that there is a need to hold the course of action concerning the contempt of courts. Regardless, it moreover recommended the meaning of contempt in the Contempt of Court Act ought to be kept to civil contempt.

In contemporary occasions, it is more significant that courts are believed to be worried about responsibility instead of threats of contempt action and processes are transparent. On the issue of criminal contempt, India can learn from Britain which annulled the offense of scandalizing the judiciary as a form of contempt of court in 2013.

Author(s) Name: Shivendra Nath Mishra (Chanakya National Law University, Patna)