Nov 27,2019 | 22 min read

Contempt of court

Author - Associate Shereen Abdin


As indicated by the Oxford Dictionary, ‘scorn is the condition of being loathed or disrespected; disfavour. Any direct that will, in general, bring the power and organization of law into lack of regard or ignore or to meddle with or partiality gatherings or their observer during suit is viewed as the scorn of court, says Oswald. Scorn is characterized by Halsbury, as comprising of words verbally expressed or composed which impede or will, in general, deter the organization of equity.’

The Indian lawmaking body doesn't give a substantial meaning of contempt, anyway area 2(a) of The Contempt of Courts,1971 says 'Contempt of court implies Civil scorn or criminal contempt'. Area 2(b) and Section 2(c) of The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 characterizes Civil and criminal contempt. Even though the council has not characterized what adds up to ‘scorn’, it has characterized Civil and criminal contempt. Along these lines, scorn can't be limited to four corners within the boundaries of a definition. Along these lines, what might affront the court's poise and what might bring down the court's dignity is in this way an issue which can be chosen by the court itself and it's for the court to manage each instance of scorn under the realities and conditions of that case.

Kinds of Contempt

Contempt of court is ordered under three general classifications, as indicated by Lord Hardwick:

  1. Scandalizing the court itself.
  2. Abusing parties who are concerned in the cause, in the presence of the court.
  3. Prejudicing the public before the cause is heard.

Notwithstanding, in India, Contempt is grouped under two significant classifications:

  1. Civil contempt
  2. Criminal contempt

1. Civil Contempt

Under Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, Civil contempt has been characterized as a willful rebellion to any judgment, order, heading, request, writ or different procedure of a court or wilful rupture of an endeavour given to a court.

2. Criminal Contempt

Under Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, criminal Contempt has been characterized as the production (regardless of whether by words, verbally expressed or composed, or by signs, or by unmistakable portrayal, or something else) of any matter or the doing of some other demonstration at all which:

(i) Scandalizes or will in general embarrass, or brings or tends down to bring down the authority of, any court, or
(ii) Prejudices, or meddles or will, in general, meddle with the proper way of any legal continuing, or
(iii) Interferes or will, in general, meddle with, or hinders or will in general deter, the organization of equity in some other way
(iv) 'High Court' signifies the high court for a state or an association domain and incorporates the court of the legal chief in any association region.


There can be no uncertainty that the motivation behind contempt locale is to maintain the greatness and nobility of law courts and their picture in the minds of the general society is by no chance trimmed down. If by unyielding words or compositions the normal man is directed to lose his regard for the judge acting in the functioning of his legal obligations, at that point the certainty rested in the courts is inconsiderately shaken and the wrongdoer should be rebuffed. Generally, the perpetrator of the law of contempt is the defender of the seat of equity more than the individual sitting of the judge sitting in that seat.

Punishment under The Contempt of Court Act

Section 12 of the demonstration manages the discipline for contempt of court. It gives as pursues

12 Discipline for Contempt of court:

(1) Save as generally explicitly gave in this Act or in some other law, a contempt of court might be rebuffed with basic detainment for a term which may stretch out to a half year, or with fine which may reach out to 2,000 rupees, or with both:" Provided that the denounced might be released or the discipline granted might be transmitted on conciliatory sentiment being made as per the general inclination of the court. Clarification. - A conciliatory sentiment will not be dismissed only on the ground that it is qualified or restrictive if the blamed makes it true blue.

(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in some other law until further notice in power, no court will force a sentence in abundance of that predetermined in sub-area (1) for any Contempt either regarding itself or of a court subordinate to it.

(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in this area, where an individual is seen as liable of a Civil scorn, the court, on the off chance that it thinks about that a fine won't be sufficient to meet the parts of the damage, that a sentence of detainment is essential will, rather than condemning him to basic detainment, direct that he be confined in a Civil jail for such period not surpassing a half year as it might deem fit.

(4) Where the individual seen as liable of contempt of court in regard to any endeavor given to a court as an organization, each individual who, at the time the scorn was submitted, was accountable for, and was dependable to, the organization for the lead of business of the organization, just as the organization, will be deemed to be liable of the Contempt and the discipline might be authorized, with the leave of the court, by the detainment in Civil jail of each such individual: Provided that nothing contained in this sub-area will render any such individual at risk to such discipline on the off chance that he demonstrates that the scorn was submitted without his insight or that he practiced all due methods diligently and tirelessly to avoid its decree.

(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-area (4), where the Contempt of court alluded to in that has been submitted by an organization and it is demonstrated that the contempt has been submitted with the assent or conspiracy of, or is inferable from any disregard with respect to, any chief, supervisor, secretary or another official of the organization, such executive, administrator, secretary or another official will likewise be esteemed to be blameworthy of the scorn and the discipline might be implemented, with the leave of the court, by the confinement in Civil jail of such chief, director, secretary or another official. Clarification.- For the reasons for sub-Sections (4) and (5),-

(a) "organization" signifies anyone who corporates and incorporates a firm or other relationship of people; and
(b) "executive", in connection to a firm, implies an accomplice in the firm.

Given that, nothing contained in this sub-area will render any such individual subject to discipline, if he demonstrates that the Contempt was submitted without his insight or that he practised all due ingenuity to counteract its decree.

Period of Limitation

Section 20 arrangements with a time of confinement for starting Contempt continuing. Section 20 gives that no court will start Contempt procedures either all alone thoughts or generally after the expiry of one year from the date on which scorn is claimed to have been submitted. The time of impediment is appropriate both in Civil just as criminal Contempt. Scorn procedures can be started either by documenting an application or by the court itself suo-moto. In both the cases, scorn procedures must be started inside one year from the date on which contempt is claimed to have been submitted.

In criminal Contempt, scorn is affirmed to have been carried out the minute embarrassment of court or impedance with the organization of equity happens. Therefore, the time of impediment promptly begins to run simultaneously alongside. Be that as it may, if there should arise an occurrence of Civil contempt the time of confinement doesn't begin from the date of the request. It starts pursuing expiry of the period under reference in the request after the assurance of ensured treatment of exactly the same nature with the opposite party. On the off chance that no time point of confinement is referenced in the request, the request ought to be sent along within a ‘sensible period’ of the time stipulated. The expression "sensible period" has been translated to be a time of a quarter of a year from the date of administration of confirmed duplicate.

Defences in Civil Contempt

An individual accused of Civil contempt of court can take the accompanying protections

No learning of request

The general guideline is that an individual can not be held liable for contempt regarding a request for which he professes to be ignorant. The law gives time and opportunity to feel qualms about an obligation a fruitful gathering to serve the ensured duplicate to the request on the opposite side either and by, or by enlisted speed post. Despite the way that the request has been passed with the knowledge of and in the closeness of both the gatherings and their guidance.

Along these lines, it tends to be effectively argued in defence that the affirmed duplicate of the request was not officially served on the asserted contemnor.

Disobedience or break was not adamant

It tends to be argued that even though insubordination or rupture of the request has occurred however it was because of inadvertent, authoritative or different reasons outside the ability to control the gathering concerned. This supplication can be fruitful just when the request has been consented to and a sensible clarification has been given for resistance thereof.

The Court may evaluate the goal of the gathering from the demonstration done similarly as a sensible judicious man would survey in the given conditions.

Order resisted is unclear or equivocal

On the off chance that the request passed by court is unclear or equivocal or it's not explicit or complete, it would be a guard in the scorn or affirmed contemnor can bring a supplication up in safeguard that the request whose contempt is claimed can not be conformed to as the equivalent is unthinkable. If there should be an occurrence of RN Ramaul versus Territory of Himanchal Pradesh AIR 1991 SC 1171, the Supreme Court guided the respondent company to re-establish the advancement of the candidate in administration from a specific date.

This bearing was conformed to by the respondent company by regarding him as advanced from that specific date which was given in the request. In any case, the financial advantages for that period were not paid by the respondent company and all things considered, the Contempt appeal was recorded. Respondent Corporation took a guard that money related advantages were not paid to the applicant because there was no heading in the request for the instalment of financial advantage and they can't be held obligated for contempt.

If there should arise an occurrence of Bharat Coking Coal Ltd. versus Territory of Bihar 1990 SCR (3) 744, 1990 SCC (4) 55, the Supreme Court explained the legitimate situation by holding that where the request is deficient and vague, the gatherings should move toward the first court and get the request explained by getting the equivocalness expelled.

The order includes more than on sensible translation

If the request whose contempt is claimed includes more than one sensible and discerning elucidation and the respondent embraces one of them and acts as per one such translation, he can't be held at risk for Contempt of court. In any case, this resistance is accessible just when a bonafide question of understanding emerges. The aim of bonafide elucidation can be assembled from the way that the request has been confirmed to by embracing one such translation. If there should be an occurrence of the TMA Pai Foundation versus Province of Karnataka (2002) 8 SCC 481, it was held that this barrier won't be permitted if uncertainty about the request has been intentionally made when there is no uncertainty by any stretch of the imagination.

Compliance of the request is unimaginable

In procedures for Civil scorn, it would be a substantial safeguard that the consistency of the request is unthinkable. Be that as it may, the instances of inconceivability must be recognized from the instances of simple trouble. If there should arise an occurrence of Amar Singh v/s KP Geetakrishnan, the court conceded certain beneficiary advantages to countless resigned workers with impact from a specific backdate. The supplication of difficulty was taken on the ground that the usage of the request would bring about the overwhelming monetary weight on the exchequer. Be that as it may, the supplication of inconceivability was dismissed by the court with the perception that even though it's hard to agree to the request yet it's not difficult to consent and in this way, it ought to be followed.

The request has been passed without locale

On the off chance that the request whose scorn is claimed, has been passed by a court which had no purview to pass it, the noncompliance or infringement would not add up to the contempt of court for the explanation that the request went without locale is a void request and ties no one. If there should arise an occurrence of Krishna Devi Marchand V. Bombay Environmental Action Group (2011) 3. SCC 363, the Supreme Court explained the lawful position and held that if the request is void, it can not be overlooked by the gathering wronged by it. The prosecuting gathering can't expect the job of Appellate or Provisional expert to state that the request isn't official and binding upon them. Therefore, if any gathering feels that the request has been passed by a court that had no purview to pass it, he should move toward a similar court for looking for such a presentation by moving an application for review of the request. On the off chance that the application is dismissed, the Appellate Court can be drawn nearer for such affirmation. If there should be an occurrence of the State of Jammu and Kashmir versus Mohd. Yaqub Khan[JT 1992 (5) SC 278, the Supreme Court has held that where stay appeal application is pending, the Contempt Court ought not to continue with the Contempt case till the stay excursion application is chosen. In this way, if there should arise an occurrence of between time request having been passed by a court which has no purview, a stay get-away application can be speedily recorded, raising the supplication of the absence of locale.

In Dr H Puninder Singh versus KK Sethi (1998) 8 SCC 640, the Supreme Court has held that if there is any stay request passed by the Appellate Court, the scorn court can't continue. Be that as it may, if no between time request application is passed by the Appellate Court, the court can continue and the request for the first court ought to be followed dependent upon any request passed by the Appellate Court at the last stage.

Defences Against Criminal Contempt

Innocent production and dispersion of issue

S.3 manages this hurdle or barrier. On the off chance that a criminal Contempt is started against an individual on the ground that he is answerable for production or for the appropriation of distribution which becomes partial or meddles with the pending procedures, the contemnor may take the following steps :

(a) he may argue under S. 3(1) that at the hour of distribution, he had no sensible ground for accepting that the procedure was pending.
(b) he may argue under S.3(2) that at the hour of production, no such continuing was pending.
(c) he may argue under S.3(3) that at the hour of dissemination of production, he had no sensible ground for accepting that the issue (distributed or appropriated by him) contained or was probably going to contain any material which meddled or hindered the pending continuing or organization of equity.

Fair and exact report of legal procedures

S.4 of the Act gives that an individual ought not to be held liable of Contempt of Court for distributing a reasonable and precise report of any legal procedures or any stage thereof. S. 7 of the Act gives Exception to the general rule that equity ought to be directed in broad daylight. Sub Sections (1) and (2) of S.7 give that an individual will not be liable of Contempt of Court for distributing the content or for distributing reasonable and exact synopsis of the entire or any piece of the request made by the court in camera (in Chamber) except if the court has explicitly precluded the production of the procedures on the grounds of:

a) Public Policy
b) Public Order
c) Security of the State
d) Information identifying with a mystery procedure, revelation or innovation, or, in the exercise of the power vested in it.

Fair analysis of legal act

S.5 gives that an individual will not be blameworthy of criminal contempt for distributing any reasonable remark on the benefits of any case which has been at long last chosen. Protection can be taken that the announcement whined of (in regards to the distribution of which criminal Contempt has been started) must be regarding a case that has been at long last chosen and not concerning pending procedures. Also, the announcement should originate from the mouth of a proficient individual in the field of law and not from a prosecuting party which has lost the case. To put it plainly, reasonable analysis implies that analysis which while scrutinizing the demonstration of a Judge doesn't attribute any ulterior thought process to him. If there should be an occurrence like that of Arundhati Roy, the Supreme Court has held that legal analysis can't be conjured under the attire of Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.

The Supreme Court additionally explained that reasonable analysis of the legal executive in general or the director of a Judge specifically may not add up to contempt if it is made by some basic honesty and out in the open intrigue. To discover the 'great confidence' and 'open intrigue' the Courts need to contemplate all the encompassing conditions incorporating the individual's information in the field of law, the expectation behind the remark and the reason looked to be accomplished. A typical resident can not be allowed to remark upon the Courts for the sake of analysis by looking for the assistance of Freedom of discourse and articulation for the explanation that if it is not checked or controlled, it would crush the legal organization itself.

In the present case, Arundhati Roy was not found to have the knowledge, learning or study concerning the working of the Supreme Court or legal executive of the nation thus the protection of reasonable remark by some basic honesty and open premium taken by her was dismissed and she was rebuffed for criminal scorn.


Anything that reduces or impedes the opportunity of points of confinement of the legal procedures. Any lead that will, in general, bring the position and organization of Law into lack of respect or dismissal or to meddle with or bring partiality into gatherings or their observers during prosecution. Comprising of words verbally expressed or composed which discourage or will in general block the organization of equity. Distributing words which will, in general, bring the organization of Justice into scorn, to influence and bring partiality into the reasonable preliminary of any reason or matter which is the subject of Civil or Criminal continuing or in any capacity to hinder the reason for Justice.

A statement of regret will not be dismissed simply on the ground that it is qualified or contingent if the person blamed makes it bonafide.

Section 12 arrangements with the discipline for scorn of court. It gives as pursues: Section 12(1)- Save as generally explicitly given in this Act or some other law, a contempt of court might be rebuffed with straightforward detainment for a term which may degree to a half year or a fine which may broaden up to rupees 2000 or both.

Given that, the denounced (of contempt) might be released or the discipline granted might be transmitted on the statement of regret being made to the court's fulfilment.

Be that as it may, in short scorn can be said to be a demonstration or oversight which meddles or will, in general, meddle in the organization of equity. To establish scorn, a little more is needed it has to be proved that there has been a real obstruction in the organization of equity. If the demonstration grumbled about, will in general meddle or endeavours to meddle in the organization of equity, might be taken as scorn. The articulation 'organization of equity' is to be utilized in a wide sense. It isn't bound to the legal capacity of the judge yet incorporates all elements of judges-regulatory, adjudicatory and some other capacity vital for the organization of equity.

Need Free Legal Advice or Assistance Online?

For any Criminal Law related matter, please Post Your Requirement anonymously and get free proposals OR find the Best Criminal Law Lawyers and book a free appointment directly.


Adhesion contract | Download Free Templates

Royalty Agreement | Download Free Templates

Drone License Agreement | Download Free Templates

Knowledge Dossier - 13 September 2021

History of Juvenile Justice System in India

Contradiction in Winding Up- Companies Act,2013 & IBC,2016

Future of Crypto in India in 2021 & Beyond: A Boon or Bane

Draft Social Security Code, 2020 in India

Major Changes/Amendments in Company Law 2013


Lawyered Team

Lawyered Team