Jul 29, 2020

The word contempt is a broad term which was given by Lord Diplock in the case of Attorney- general Vs Times Newspaper HL 1973,wherein the house had initiated contempt proceedings against the editor of the newspaper through the Attorney General, for his inappropriate comments. This term ‘Contempt of Court’ applies when someone wilfully disobeys the court order, decree, direction or goes against the legal authorities. Contempt can be either written or spoken. Publishing any magazines, articles, booklets etc.which lead to prejudice in civil or criminal court that can cause hindrance in the proceedings or obstruct the cause of justice is punishable under section 11 of Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. In India ‘Contempt of Court’ was first introduced in the case C.K DaphtaryVs O.P.Gupta, 1971 1 SCC 62, because here the respondent had published and circulated a booklet which alleged prejudice by Justice Shah with respect to the said case, while was in authority. So, the bench of the Supreme Court examined the scope of contempt in this case and laid down a ‘test’ to examine other cases for contempt. 

Contempt is defined in section 2(a) of The Contempt of Court Act, 1971. Constitution of India also establishes the concept of contempt, the articles of which are as follows:

129: Supreme Court to be a court of record

The Supreme 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.

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. 

There are two types of Contempt in India, namely:

1. Civil Contempt: It means wilful disobedience to any judgement, decree, direction, order or any wilful breach and another process of a court of an undertaking given to a court. 

2. Criminal Contempt: Publication whether by words, spoken or written or by signs or by representation or otherwise of any matter or doing the act whatsoever which scandalise or tends to offend or lowers or intends to reduce the authority of any court or prejudices or interferes or tends to interfere, the due course of any judicial proceeding or obstruct the administration     of justice in any other manner.

In India, there is more of civil contempt cases filed than criminal contempt cases.


Any person, who is guilty of contempt, shall be served a notice. A copy of motion and affidavits shall accompany the notice. If the court is in the apprehension or is satisfied that the person, who will be served notice, might abscond or cause any hindrance in service of notice, then the court will order the attachment of the property or any amount as it deems fit. Every attachment of the property or value attached to it will be under The Civil Procedure Code, 1908, and then the notice has been served, and no hindrance is caused. The court will release the attached property and the amount attached to it if the court is satisfied. The person accused of contempt shall file an affidavit in support of the defence. Once the affidavit is accepted, the court will estimate the plaint, evidence as well as the gravity of the case and pass orders accordingly.


When any person is accused of committing contempt during the proceedings in the High Court or Supreme Court, then the court may order to detain the person in custody with immediate effect. The person shall be informed about the charge of contempt in writing or orally, and also allow him to produce his defence. After the submission of testimony and other documents, the court will initiate the proceeding of the case. The court may either discharge or punish the accused held for contempt subsequent to the completion of the hearing of the case. When a charge is made against the person who is guilty of contempt in the presence of the judge of the High Court or Supreme Court, the said case will be tried in the same court of any other judge. The judge in whose presence the contempt was committed shall not appear as a witness or place any statement in the presence of the Chief Justice of the court after the matter has been taken up by any other judge until the determination of the charges, the person guilty of the said offence shall be held in custody.


Anyperson guilty of contempt shall be held under section 45 of the Indian PenalCode, 1908, in which the person shall be punished with simple imprisonment fora term which may extend to six months or fine which mayextend to two thousand rupees. 

In the case of Chandan Mitra (1995), the Editor of Hindustan Times had published an article in their newspaper stating that the judges of Supreme Court of India need psychiatric counselling for imposing limitations on Punjab Police Officials. The editor was held guilty of contempt. 

In 2018, Justice Kurian Joseph addressed an unprecedented press conference stating that Chief Justice of India, Justice Dipak Mishra was under the influence of someone outside the judiciary. The Times of India questioned the statement by Justice Joseph asking whether he can make such statements against the CJI?. APIL was filed against Justice Joseph. Later, Justice Gogoi declined the PIL,stating that “the credibility of the institution can be maintained by those who work in the institution.”