Contempt of Court: The New Normal

Dec 27th, 2020 | by  malvika singhal


“The Supreme Court of this country is the most supreme joke of this country...”. The Supreme Court of India is one of the most highly decorated places and saying something like this would surely land people in a lot of trouble and that is what is happening to Kunal Kamra, a stand-up artist who made this derogatory remark after the Supreme Court released Arnab Goswami on bail. It doesn’t matter if this statement was made as a joke. The one thing that is important is that the Supreme Court should not be disrespected in any sense. Many western countries have abolished the law of contempt but that doesn’t mean that they are free to say anything. The concept of contempt of court in the country was brought by the Britishers and was introduced in 1861 but after the independence, new laws were made and in 1971 and The Contempt of Courts Act was introduced in the country.


Contempt of court is an offence of disobedience or disrespect towards a court of law and its officials in the shape of behaviour that opposes or demanding situations the authority, justice and dignity of the court docket. Contempt of court is a constitutional strength vested with the Supreme Court of India.

Article 129 of the Indian Constitution gives the power to the Apex Court of India to be a court of record and to have all the powers including the power to punish for contempt of itself. Superior courts of the document have the powers to punish contempts referring to the judges of these courts and the lawsuits therein. The major intention of the jurisdiction is to shield the consideration of the court docket and the due administration of justice. The principal aim of the jurisdiction is to protect the dignity of the court and the due administration of justice.

The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

For the concept of Contempt of court, the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 became handed which treated this type of idea. Article 129 and 215 of the constitution of India empower the ideal courtroom and high courtroom respectively to punish human beings for his or her respective contempt. Section 10 of The Contempt of Courts Act defines the power of the higher court to punish contempts of its subordinate courts. Power to punish for contempt of court under Articles 129 and 215 is not subject to Article 19(1)(a)

Essentials of Contempt of Court:

  1. The making of a legitimate court docket order,
  2. Knowledge of the order by the respondent,
  3. Potential of the respondent to render compliance, and
  4. Willful disobedience of the order.

Types of contempt in India

1. Civil Contempt

Under Section 2(b) of The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, civil contempt has been defined as something when a person by his will disobeys any judgement, decree, direction, order, writ or any other processes of the court or if such person breaches an undertaking given by the court knowing that he is doing so. 

The punishment for civil contempt may be simple imprisonment which may extend up to six months or fine of two thousand rupees or both.

2. Criminal Contempt

Under Section 2(c) of The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, defines criminal contempt as the publication whether by words or in writing or by gestures or by any kind of visual representation, or otherwise of any matter or the doing of any other act which:

(i) Scandalizes or tends to scandalize, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court, or

(ii) Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding, or anything said or done that deters the delivery of justice amounts to contempt of the court 

(iii) Interferes or obstructs the administration of justice in any other manner. The Supreme Court has held that the interference need not be an actual interference but it should be enough to hamper the administration of the justice

Recent developments and cases:

The country has seen a high rise in cases of contempt of court in the last few years. 

  • Recently, Prasant Bhushan who commented on the judges of the Supreme Court. The comment made by him were not exactly derogatory but in a way attached to the sentiment of the judges. 
  • The Attorney General of India recently gave assent to a law student for initiating contempt proceedings against a comic illustrator, Rachita Taneja for her illustrative tweets about the Supreme Court in the hands of a certain political party. 
  • Madras High Court judge asked the Chief Justice of Madras HC to start the proceedings of criminal contempt against the well known Tamil actor, Surya for his comments on the Apex Court allowing NEET exams which were later on defined by the CJ considering other relevant factors.
  • The actress Kangana Ranaut has also been in the news for making derogatory tweets about the Judiciary and a petition was also filed against the actress for initiating the proceedings of criminal contempt against her in the Bombay HC.


The law of contempt of court is very lenient in the sense that it takes a long time to get to a judgement. As of now, the country cannot waste the scarce resource of the courts and judges on the matters which are not important. The law of contempt is not treated in the right way in the country and the only reason is that it is not deemed important. It is seen in various cases of contempt that the Chief Justices go ahead with the proceedings only in the cases of severe contempt. This could be seen as the humbleness and understanding of the Judiciary rather than the weakness of Legislation. Also, there are other western nations who are open to any critic on the courthouses from people in a much broader sense. Thus, our country is also trying to implement it by giving a new face to the modern judicial system, especially the Apex Court proving it in the real sense - the “Peoples' Court”  




malvika singhal

malvika singhal

A keen learner

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