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The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

 Bare acts  The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 Introduction The origin of the law of contempt in India can be traced to the English law. In England, superior courts of record have from the earliest times exercised the power to commit for contempt those who scandalised the court or the judges. The right of the Indian high courts to punish for contempt was, in the first instance, recognised by the judicial committee of the Privy Council which observed that the offence of the contempt of court and the powers of the high courts to punish it are the same in such courts as in the Supreme Court in England. Almost all the high courts in India, apart from the chartered high courts have exercised the jurisdiction inherent in a court of record from the very nature of the court itself. It has been judicially accepted throughout India that the jurisdiction was a special one, inherent in the very nature of the court. The first Indian statute on the Law of Contempt, i.e., the Contempt of Courts Act was passed in 1926. It was enacted to define and limit the powers of certain courts in punishing contempt of courts. When the Contempt of Courts Act, 1926 (XII of 1926) was in existence in British India, various Indian states also had their corresponding enactment. These states were Hyderabad, Madhya Bharat, Mysore, Pepsu, Rajastha, Travancore-Cochin and Saurashtra. State enactments of the Indian states and the Contempt of Courts Act, 1926 were replaced by the Contempt of Courts Act, 1952 (32 of 1952). An attempt was made in April 1960 to introduce in the Lok Sabha a bill to consolidate and amend the law relating to contempt of courts. On an examination of the bill, the government appears to have felt that the law relating to contempt of courts was uncertain, undefined and unsatisfactory and that in the light of the constitutional changes which have taken place in the country, it would be advisable to have the entire law on the subject scrutinised by a special committee set up for the purpose. In pursuance of that decision, a committee was set up on July 29, 1961 and it submitted its report on February 28, 1963 to define and limit the powers of certain courts in punishing contempt of courts and to regulate their procedure in relation thereto. The Joint Select Committee of Parliament on Contempt of Courts examined the issue in detail and a new bill, the Contempt of Courts Bill, 1968 was prepared by the committee. Statement of objects and reasons It is generally felt that the existing law relating to contempt of courts is somewhat uncertain, undefined and unsatisfactory. The jurisdiction to punish for contempt touches upon two important fundamental rights of the citizens, namely, the right to personal liberty and the right to freedom of expression. It was, therefore, considered advisable to have the entire law on the subject scrutinised by a special committee. In pursuance of this, a committee was set up in 1961 under the chairmanship of the late H N Sanyal, the then additional solicitor general. The committee made a comprehensive examination of the law and problems relating to contempt of court in the light of the position obtaining in our own country and various foreign countries. The recommendations which the committee made took note of the importance given to freedom of speech in the Constitution and of the need for safeguarding the status and dignity of courts and interests of administration of justice. The recommendations of the committee have been generally accepted by the government after considering the view expressed on those recommendations by the state governments, union territory administrations, the Supreme Court, the high courts and the judicial commissioners. The bill seeks to give effect to the accepted recommendations of the Sanyal Committee.
Back to topAct 70 of 1971 The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 (70 of 1971) was passed by the Parliament in December 1971 and it came into force w.e.f. December 24, 1971. List of amending act The Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Act, 1976 (45 of 1976) Preamble (December 24, 1971) An Act to define and limit the powers of certain courts in punishing contempt of courts and to regulate their procedure in relation thereto 1. Short title and extent (1) This Act may be called the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.
(2) It extends to the whole of India.
Provided that it shall not apply to the state of Jammu and Kashmir except to the extent to which the provisions of this Act relate to contempt of the Supreme Court.   Comments
(i) The law of contempt of courts is for keeping the administration of justice pure and undefiled. While the dignity of the court is to be maintained at all costs, the contempt jurisdiction, which is of a special nature, should be sparingly used; Shakuntala Sahadevram Tewari v. Hemchand M.Singhania, (1990) 3 Bom CR 82 (Bom).

(ii) Proceedings of contempt are summary in nature and also are sui generis; Golcha Advertising Agency vs The State of Maharashtra, (1990) 2 Bom CR 262 (Bom).

2. Definitions  

In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires:
(a) 'Contempt of court' means civil contempt or criminal contempt.

(b) 'Civil contempt' means willful disobedience to any judgement, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or willful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
(c) 'Criminal contempt' means 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 scandalise, 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
(iii) Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.
(a) 'High Court' means the high court for a state or a union territory and includes the court of the judicial commissioner in any union territory.

  Comments 
(i) There are three different sorts of contempt, viz., scandalising the court, abusing parties who are concerned in causes here and prejudicing mankind against persons before the case is heard; In re: St. James Evening Post, (1974) 2 ATK 469
(ii) Courts seek to punish acts or conduct calculated to interfere with the administration of justice; In re: P C Sen, AIR 1970 SC 1821.
(iii) Comment on pending case or abuse of a party may amount to contempt when the case is tried by a judge: Subhash Chand v S M Aggarwal, 1984 Crl LJ 481 (De.).
(iv) Judges by reason of their office are precluded from entering into any controversy in columns of the public press; The State v.Vikar Ahmed, AIR 1954 Hyd 175.
(v) There is no special principle attached to the press to comment, criticise or investigate the facts of any case of the prejudice of the trial of the case; Sukhdev Singh v Teja Singh, AIR 1954 SC 186.
(vi) No editor has a right to assume the role of investigator to try to prejudice the court against any person; The District Magistrate v M A Hamid Ali Gardish, AIR 1940 Oudh 137.
(vii) It is time to stem institutionalised procrastination, K V Venkatesh v. taluka executive magistrate, AIR 1990 Kant 86.
(viii) The law relating to contempt of court is well settled. Any act done or writing published which is calculated to bring a court or a judge into contempt, or to lower his authority, or to interfere with the due course of justice or the lawful process of the court, is a contempt of court; Q.R. v. Gray, 1900 (2) QBD 36 (40)
(ix) Contempt by speech or writing may be by scandalising the court itself, or by abusing parties to actions, or by prejudicing mankind in favour of or against a party before the cause is heard. It is incumbent upon courts of justice to preserve their proceedings from being misrepresented, for prejudicing the mind of the people against persons concerned as parties in causes before the cause is finally heard has pernicious consequences. Speech or writings misrepresenting the proceedings of the court or prejudicing the public for or against a party or involving reflections on parties to a proceeding amount to contempt. To make a speech tending to influence the result of a pending trial, whether civil or criminal is a grave contempt. Comments on pending proceedings, if emanating from the parties or their lawyers, are generally a more serious contempt than those coming from independent sources; State of Haryana v Ch Bhajanlal, AIR 1993 SC 1348.
(x) In contempt proceedings there are essentially two parties -- the court and contemporary; Shakuntala Sahadevram Tiwari v. Hemachand M Singhania, (1990) 3 Bom CR 82 (Bom).
(xi) The law of contempt must be strictly interpreted and complied with before any person can be committed for contempt; Roshan S Boyce v B R Cotton Mills Ltd., AIR 1990 SC 1881.
(xii) Any willful disobedience to the orders of the court to do or abstain from doing any act or breach of any undertaking given to the court is prima-facie civil contempt; Vidya Sagar v IIIrd additional di.strict judge, Dehradun, 1991 All CJ 586 (588); See also State of Assam v. V K Vishnoi, 1993 (23) ATC 581 (587-588); State of Orissa v. Bijaya Mohanty, (1993) 75 CLT 820 (830).
(xiii) Non caring of the warrant issued by the criminal court amounts to criminal contempt; E Venkaiah v. government of Andhra Pradesh, 1992 (3) ALT 193 (199).
Back to top3. Innocent publication and distribution of matter not contempt   (1) A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court on the ground that he has published (whether by words, spoken or written, or by visible representations, or otherwise) any matter which interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the course of justice in connection with any civil or criminal proceeding pending at that time of publication, if at that time he had no reasonable grounds for believing that the proceeding was pending.

(2) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Act or any other law for the time being in force, the publication of any such matter as is mentioned in sub section (1) in connection with any civil or criminal proceeding which is not pending at the time of publication shall not be deemed to constitute contempt of court.

(3) A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court on the ground that he has distributed a publication containing any such matter as is mentioned in sub section (1), if at the time of distribution he had no reasonable grounds for believing that it contained or was likely to contain any such matter as aforesaid.

Provided that this sub section shall not apply in respect of the distribution of:     (i) Any publication which is a book or paper printed or published otherwise than in conformity with the rules contained in section 3 of the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 (25 of 1867).
(ii) Any publication which is a newspaper published otherwise than in conformity with the rules contained in section 5 of the said Act.   Explanation    

For the purposes of this section, a judicial proceeding --
(a) is said to be pending,
(b) in the case of a civil proceeding, when it is instituted by the filing of a plaint or otherwise,
(c) in the case of a criminal proceeding under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 [5 of 1898 (Note: now see Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974)], or any other law -
(i) where it relates to the commission of the offence, when the chargesheet or challan is filed, or when the court issues summons or warrant, as the case may be, against the accused, and
(ii) in any other case, when the court takes cognisance of the matter to which the proceeding relates, and
(iii) in the case of a civil or criminal proceeding, shall be deemed to continue to be pending until it is heard and finally decided, that is to say, in a case where an appeal or revision is competent, until the appeal or revision is heard and finally decided or, where no appeal or revision in preferred, until the period of limitation prescribed for such appeal or revision has expired,
(iv) Which has been heard and finally decided shall not be deemed to be pending merely by reason of the fact that proceedings for the execution of the decree, order or sentence passed therein are pending.

  Comments 
(i) The liberty of free expression is not to be compounded with a licence to make unfounded allegations of corruption against judiciary; M R Prashar v Dr Farooq Abdullah, (1984) 1 Cr LC 433.
(ii) The abuse of the liberty of free speech and expression carries the case nearer the law of contempt; M R Prashar v Dr Farooq Abdullah, (1984) 1 Cr. LC 433.
(iii) A defence of truth or justification is not available to the publisher of a newspaper in proceedings for contempt of court; managing director Vamin v O P Bensal, 1982 Cr. LJ 322 (Raj).
(iv) Publication of reports of proceedings before a court of law must be true, accurate and without malice; Wasuddeoraoji v A D Mani, AIR 1951 Nag. 26. 4. Fair and accurate report of judicial proceeding not contempt   Subject to the provisions contained in section 7, a person shall not be guilty of contempt of court for publishing a fair and accurate report of a judicial proceeding or any state thereof.   Comments
(i) The words 'judicial proceeding' means day-to-day proceedings of the court. The media reports must represent a fair and accurate report of a judicial proceeding and not be a one-sided picture; Subhash Chand v S M Aggarwal, 1984 Cr LJ 481

(ii) While reproducing the court proceedings, no words may be added, omitted or substituted; E T Sen v E Narayanan, AIR 1969 Del 201.
(iii) Fair and accurate reporting of the judgment is essential for the healthy administration of justice. In re: Progressive Port and Dock Workers Union, 1984 Cr LJ 1061 (Ker). 5. Fair criticism of judicial act not contempt - A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court for publishing any fair comment on the merits of any case which has been heard and finally decided.   Comments 
(i) The nature and circumstances under which allegations are made, the extent and the character of the publications and similar other considerations have to be taken into account in order to determine whether the act complained of amounts to contempt. No action is called for, if the criticism is reasonable and is offered for the public good; In re: Guljari Lal, 1968 MPLJ 725 (730-731).
(ii) Judgments are open to criticism that must be done without casting aspersions on the judges and the judges and the courts and without adverse comments amounting to scandalising the courts; advocate general v Abraham George, 1976 Cr. LJ 158 (161).
(iii) A fair comment on the judgment of a court could not constitute a contempt; state of Maharashtra v Chandrakant Tripathi, AIR 1936 PC 141.
(iv) The publication in newspaper of reports of proceedings before a court of law must be true; state v Bhavani Prasad, AIR 1954 Nag 36.
(v) The criticism of a judge must take the form of reasonable argument or exploitation; must be made in good faith and free from the imputation of improper motives; state of Uttar Pradesh v Brahma Prakash, AIR 1950 All 556.
Back to top6. Complaint against presiding officers of subordinate courts when not contempt   A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court in respect of any statement made by him in good faith concerning the presiding officer or any subordinate court to -
(a) Any other subordinate court, or
(b) The high court to which it is subordinate.
Explanation - In this section, 'subordinate court' means any court subordinate to a high court.  Comments 
(i) A complaint or report about a judicial officer of his dishonesty, partiality or other conduct unbecoming of a court, made to an authority to whom it is subordinate, is not contempt of court if all reasonable care is taken by the makers to keep it confidential; In re: Guljair Lal, 1968 MPLJ 725 (MP). 
(ii) Immunity is provided to a citizen making a complaint to the high court against a presiding officer of a subordinate court so long as the complaint is made in good faith; In re: court on its own motion, 1973 Cr LJ 1106 (P & H). 7. Publication of information relating to proceeding in chambers or in camera not contempt except in certain cases -   (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, a person shall not be guilty of contempt of court for publishing a fair and accurate report of judicial proceedings before any court sitting in chambers or in camera except in the following cases, that is to say -     (a) Where the publication is contrary to the provisions of any enactment for the time being in force.
(b) Where the court, on grounds of public policy or in exercise of any power vested in it, expressly prohibits the publication of all information relating to the proceeding or of information of the description which is published.
(c) Where the court sits in chambers or in camera for reason connected with public order or the security of the state, the publication of information relating to those proceedings,
(d) Where the information relates to secret process, discovery or invention which is an issue in the proceedings.   (2) Without prejudice to the provisions contained in sub section (1) a person shall not be guilty of contempt of court for publishing the text or a fair and accurate summary of the whole, or any part, of an order made by a court sitting in chambers or in camera, unless the court has expressly prohibited the publication thereof on grounds of public policy, or for reasons connected with public order or the security of the state, or on the ground that it contains information relating to secret process, discovery or invention, or in exercise of any power vested on it. 8. Other defences not affected - Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed as implying that any other defence which would have been a valid defence in any proceedings for contempt of court has ceased to be available merely by reason of the provisions of this Act.   Comments 
Since a proceeding in contempt is a quasi-judicial proceeding, the precise nature of contempt must be set out in the motion: Nazamunnissa Shaukat Ali v Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay, (1990) 1 Mah LR 329 (Bom). 9. Act not to imply enlargement of scope of contempt - Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed as implying that any disobedience, breach, publication or other act is punishable as contempt of court which not be so punishable apart from this Act.   Comments 
The scope of contempt of courts has not been enlarged. What was not contempt so far is not contempt of court even now. The contempt of court should not be resorted to only for the purpose of enforcing interpretive rights; state of West Bengal v N N Bagchi, AIR 1966 SC 447. 10. Power of high court to punish contempts of subordinate courts - Every high court shall have and exercise the same jurisdiction, powers and authority, in accordance with the same procedure and practice, in respect of contempts of courts subordinate to it and it has and exercise in respect of contempts of itself.
Provided that no high court shall take cognisance of a contempt alleged to have been committed in respect of a court subordinate to it where such contempt is an offence punishable under the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860). Comments
(i) The phrase 'courts subordinate to it' used in section 10 is wide enough to include all courts which are judicially subordinate to the high court even though administrative control over them under Article 235 of the constitution does not vest in the high court; S K Sarkar, member, board of revenue, U P Lucknow v Vinay Chandra Mishra, 1981 Cr LJ 283 (286).

(ii) The power of committal for contempt must be wielded with the greatest reluctance and the greatest anxiety and only with the object of seeing that the dignity and authority of the court are not imposed; E Chandra v member secretary, MMDA., (1990) 1 MLJR 537.
(iii) If the act is punishable by the Penal Code as contempt of court then that act cannot form the subject of contempt proceedings by the high court; the emperor V J P Swadhin, Air 1938 All 358.
(iv) The high court cannot take cognisance of 'contempt' which is punishable under the Indian Penal Code; N K Gupta v Umraomal Agarwalla, AIR 1951 Cal 489. 11. Power of high court to try offences committed or offenders found outside jurisdiction - A high court shall have jurisdiction to inquire into or try a contempt of itself or of any court subordinate to it, whether the contempt is alleged to have been committed within or outside the local limits of its jurisdiction, and whether the person alleged to be guilty of contempt is within or outside such limits.   Comments
(i) This section provided for the extra-territorial jurisdiction of high courts of commit a person for contempt even though the act alleged was committed outside its territorial jurisdiction; state v V Adilakshmi Amma, 1954 Cr. LJ 988 (Ori).
(ii) This section expands the ambit of the authority beyond with was till then considered to be possible but it does not confer a new jurisdiction. It merely widens the scope of our existing jurisdiction of a very special kind; Sukhdev Singh v Teja Singh, AIR 1954 SC 186 (190); state of Uttar Pradesh v Radhey Shyam.
Back to top12. Punishment for contempt of court - (1) Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act or in any other law, a contempt of court may be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, or with both.Provided that the accused may be discharged or the punishment awarded may be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court.
Explanation -   An apology shall not be rejected merely on the ground that it is qualified or conditional if the accused makes it bona fide.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, no court shall impose a sentence in excess of that specified in sub section for any contempt either in respect of itself or of a court subordinate to it.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, where a person is found guilty of a civil contempt, the court, if it considers that a fine will not meet the ends of justice and that a sentence of imprisonment is necessary shall, instead of sentencing him to simple imprisonment, direct that the he be detained in a civil prison for such period not exceeding six months as it may think fit.
(4) Where the person found guilty of contempt of court in respect of any undertaking given to a court is a company, every person who, at the time the contempt was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to, the company for the conduct of business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the contempt and the punishment may be enforced, with the leave of the court, by the detention in civil prison of each such person.
Provided that nothing contained in this sub section shall render any such person liable to such punishment if he proves that the contempt was committed without his knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent its commission.
(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub section (4) where the contempt of court referred to therein has been committed by a company and it is provided that the contempt has been committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manger, secretary or other officer of the company, such director, manager, secretary or other officer shall also be deemed to be guilty of the be contempt and the punishment may be enforced, with the leave of the court, by the detention in civil prison of such director, manager, secretary or other officer.
Explanation - For the purpose of sub sections (4) and (5) -   (a) 'Company' means any body corporate and includes a firm or other association of individuals, and
(b) 'Director' in relation to a firm, means a partner in the firm.   Comments
Breach of an injunction, or breach of an undertaking given to a court by a person in a civil proceeding amounts to contempt; Noorali Babul Thanewala v K M M Shetty, AIR 1990 Sc 564.
(i) Committing the contemner to prison is always discretionary with the court; Shakuntala Sahadevram Tiwari v Hemchand M Singhania, (1990) 3 Bom CR 82 (Bom).
(ii) The power to fine and imprison for contempt is a necessary incident and attribute of a court; Watson v Williams, (33) 36 Mis 341.
(iii) An unreserved apology, in less serious cases, has the asset of taking the stringent of contempt; court on behalf of the state of Punjab v Raddha Krishan Khanna, AIR 1961 Punj 113.
(iv) The contempt power should be kept sheathed; union of India v S C Sharma, (1980) 2 SCC 144.
(v) Apology is an act of contrition. Apology must not be shorn of penitence. Tendering of apology cannot be a panacea in every case of contempt. No apology could undo gross contempt and serious cases of contempt; state of Orissa v R N Patra, (1975) 41 Cut LT 329.
(vi) The court can, even when accepts the apology, commit an offender to prison or otherwise punish him; Rupert J Bamabas v N Bharani, 1990 LW (Crl) 27 (Mad).
(vii) A haulting, hesitating and vacillating apology deserves to be rejected; state of Uttar Pradesh v Krishna Madho, AIR 1952 All 86.
(viii) The court may or may not accept an apology goes to sentence and cannot, therefore, be accepted without a finding that contempt has been committed. However, apology, though not a weapon of defence forged always to purge the guilty, should be tendered out the earliest possible stage, unreservedly and unconditionally and it must be indicative of remorse and contrition as well as free, full, frank and manly confession of a wrong done; In re: Hirenn Bose, AIR 1969 Cal 1. 13. Contempts not punishable in certain cases - Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, no court shall impose a sentence under this Act for a contempt of court unless it is satisfied that the contempt is of such a nature that it substantially interferes, or tends substantially to interfere with the due course of justice.   Comments 
(i) Every infraction of the court's order does not amount to contempt of court; H S Butalia v Subhas Saksena, 1974 Cr LJ 828 (Cal).
(ii) Technical contempts are to be ignored; Baradakanta Mishra v the registrar, Orissa high court, AIR 1974 SC 710.
(iii) A party (or person) can be committed for contempt only owing to any willful or deliberate or reckless disobedience of the order of the court; Jiwani Kumari v Satyabrata Chakraborty, AIR 1991 SC 326.
(iv) Exemplary costs may be awarded instead of imposing a fine; Naamunnissa Shaukat Ali v Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay, (1990) Mah LR 329 (Bom). 14. Procedure where contempt is in the face of the Supreme Court or a high court - (1) When it is alleged, or appears to the Supreme Court or the high court upon its own view, that a person has been guilty of contempt committed in its presence or hearing, the court may cause such person to be detained in custody, and, at any time before the rising of the court, on the same day, or as early as possible thereafter, shall -   (a) Cause him to be informed in writing of the contempt with which he is charged.
(b) Afford him an opportunity to make his defence to the charge,
(c) After taking such evidence as may be necessary or as may be offered by such person and after hearing him, proceed, either forthwith or after adjournment, to determine the matter of the charge, and
(d) Make such order for the punishment or discharge of such person as may be just. (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub section (1) where a person charged with contempt under the sub section applies, whether orally or in writing, to have the charge against him tried by some judge other than the judge or judges in whose presence or hearing the offence is alleged to have been committed, and the court is of opinion that it is practicable to do so and that in that interest of proper administration of justice the application should be allowed, it shall cause the matter to be placed, together with a statement of the facts of the case, before the chief justice for such directions as he may think fit to issue as respects the trial thereof.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, in any trial of a person charged with contempt under sub section (1) which is held, in pursuance of a direction given under sub section (2), by a judge other than the judge or judges in whose presence or hearing the offence is alleged to have been committed, it shall not be necessary for the judge or judges in whose presence or hearing the offence is alleged to have been committed to appear as a witness and the statement placed before the chief justice under sub section (2) shall be treated as evidence in the case.
(4) Pending the determination of the charge, the court may direct that a person charged with contempt under this section shall be detained in such custody as it may specify.
Provided that he shall be released on bail, of a bond for such sum of money as the court thinks sufficient is executed with or without sureties conditioned that the person charged shall attend at the time and place mentioned in the bond and shall continue to so attend until otherwise directed by the court.
Provided further that the court may, if it thinks fit, instead of taking bail from such person, discharge him on his executing a bond without sureties for his attendance as aforesaid.   Comments 
(i) Where contempt -     (a) It committed in the presence or hearing of the Supreme Court or the high court, or
(b) Is not committed in the presence or hearing of the Supreme Court or the high court, but a complaint is made immediately before the alleged contemner leaves the precincts of that court, then the procedure laid down in this section has to be adopted.   (ii) If the court did not take action under section 14 then the procedure of section 15 cannot be adopted later; Mansiha Mukherjee v Aashoke Chatterjee, 1985 Cr LJ 1224.
Back to top15. Cognisance of criminal contempt in other cases - (1) In the case of a criminal contempt, other than a contempt referred to in section 14, the Supreme Court or the high court may take action on its own motion or on a motion made by -   (a) The advocate-general, or
(b) Any other person, with the consent in writing of the advocate-general, (Note:- Ins. by Act 45 of 1976, sec.2)
(c) [(Note:- Ins. by Act 45 of 1976, sec.2)] In relation to the high court for the union territory of Delhi, such law officer as the central government may, by notification in the official gazette, specify in this behalf, or any other persons, with the consent in writing of such law officer. (2) In the case of any criminal contempt of a subordinate court, the high court may take action on a reference made to it by the subordinate court or on a motion made by the advocate-general or, in relation to a union territory, by such law officer as the central government may, by notification in the official gazette, specify in this behalf.
(3) Every motion or reference made under this section shall specify the contempt of which the person charge is alleged to be guilty. Explanation - In this section, the expression 'advocate-general' means -
(a) In relation to the Supreme Court, the attorney or the solicitor-general
(b) In relation to the high court, the advocate-general of the state or any of the states for which the high court has been established.
(c) In relation to the court of a judicial commissioner, such law officer as the central government may, by notification in the official gazette, specify in this behalf.   Comments 
(i) The court can take action - 
(a) On motion by the advocate-general himself; or
(b) On motion by anyone with the consent of the advocate-general; or
(c) On report by a subordinate court, in cases not covered by section 14 of the Act.
(ii) Procedure of making a reference cannot apply in a case when the presiding officer of a subordinate court himself is guilty of contempt of court; Berely v Xavier, 1988 Cr LJ 90.
(iii) It is always open the high court to take action suo motu in respect of a subordinate court; state of Orissa v R N Patra, 1976 Cr LJ 440 (Ori); see also A R Rao, 1981 Cr LJ 1322.
(iv) Absolute discretion is rested in the advocate-general in the matter of according consent; N Venkataramanappa v D K Naikar, AIR 1975 Kant 57.
(v) Nobody has a right to compel the subordinate court to make a reference to the high court; Jomon v the state of Kerala, (1987) IJ Reports 273 (Kerala).
(vi) A negative fact cannot be proved; V K Kanade v Mandho Godkari, (1990) I Mah LR 544 (Bom).
(vii) Contemner has no right to produce defence to establish the truth of his allegations; In re: K L Gauba, AIR 1942 Lah 105; see also In re: Ram Mohanlal, AIR 1935 All 38. 16. Contempt by judge, magistrate or other person acting judicially - (1) Subject to the provisions of any law for the time being in force, a judge, magistrate or other persons act in judicially shall also be liable for contempt of his own court or of any other court in the same manner as any other individual is liable and the provisions of this Act, so far as may be, apply accordingly.
(2) Notwithstanding in this section shall apply to any observations or remarks made by a judge, magistrate or other person act in judicially, regarding a subordinate court in an appeal or revision pending before such judge, magistrate or other person against the order or judgement of the subordinate court.   Comments 
(i) Only a judge of a subordinate court can be said to have committed contempt of his own court i.e. the court in which such judge is presiding; Harish Chandra v S Ali Ahmed, 1987 Cr LJ 320 (Pat).
(ii) A judge can foul judicial administration by misdemeanors while engaged in the exercise of the functions of a judge; Baradakanta v the registrar, Orissa high court, AIR 1974 SC 710.
(iii) The magistrates should be conscious of their heavy responsibilities and should not act in a manner prejudicial to the litigants; B N Choudhary v S M Singh, 1967 Cr LJ 1141 (Pat).
(iv) When the president officer of a subordinate court is guilty of contempt of court, procedure of making a reference cannot apply under section 15 of the Act; Berely v Xavier, 1988 Cr LJ 90. 17. Procedure after cognisance - (1) Notice of every proceeding under section 15 shall be served personally on the person charged, unless the court for reasons to be recorded directs otherwise.
(2) The notice shall be accompanied -   (a) In the case of proceedings commenced on a motion, by a copy of the motion as also copies of the affidavits, if any, on which such motion is founded and,
(b) In case of proceedings commenced on a reference by a subordinate court, by a copy of the reference. (3) The court may, if it is satisfied that a person charged under Section 15 is likely to abscond or keep out of the way to avoid service of the notice, order the attachment of his property of such value or amount as it may deem reasonable.
(4) Every attachment under sub section (3) shall be effected in the manner provided in the code of civil procedure, 1908 [5 of 1908 (Note: now see code of criminal procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974)], for the attachment of property in execution of a decree for payment of money, and if, after such attachment, the person charged appears and shows to the satisfaction of the court that he did not abscond or keep out of the way to avoid service of the notice, the court shall order the release of his property from attachment upon such terms as to costs or otherwise as it may think fit.
(5) Any person charged with contempt under Section 15 may file an affidavit in support of this defence, and the court may determine the matter of the charge either on the affidavits filed or after taking such further evidence as may be necessary, and pass such order as the justice of the case requires.  Comments 
(i) The period of one year has to be reckoned from the date on which a notice under this section has been issued; K K R Nair v Mohan Das, 1990 Cr LJ 1641 (AP).
(ii) An order initiating proceeding for contempt by a notice issued under section 17 is not appealable under section 19 of the Act; the union of India v Mario Coural Sa. AIR 1982 SC 691.
(iii) Committal for contempt is always discretionary with the court; S C Nandy v G M Bhattacharjee, AIR 1951 Cal 507.
(iv) The position of a contemner is that of an accused person; M R Parashar v Dr Farooq Abdullah 1984 Cal LJ 337 (SC).
(v) Contempt proceedings are quasi criminal in nature; Sheoraj v A P Batra, AIR 1955 All 638.
(vi) Benefit of doubt is available to an accused; state of Orissa v Nityanandda Mohopatra, AIR 1960 Ori 132.
(vii) Personal appearance, unless dispensed with, of a contemner is mandatory; B N Jaisimha v N T Prabhakar, (1985) 29 MLJC Crl 640.
Back to top18. Hearing of cases of criminal contempt to be by benches - (1) Every case of criminal contempt under section 15 shall be heard and determined by a bench of not less than two judges.
(2) Sub section (1) shall not apply to the court of a judicial commissioner.   Comments 
(i) The jurisdiction rests exclusively with a bench of not less than two judges of the high court; B R Karandikar v M Y Joshy, (1983) 2 Bom Cr 558 (Bom).
(ii) However, it was observed that a single judge can also deal with criminal contempts committed in facie curium; In re: court on its own motion, AIR 1980 P & H 72. 19. Appeals - (1) An appeal shall lie as of right from any order to decision of high court in the exercise of its jurisdiction to punish for contempt -   (a) Where the order or decision is that of a single judge, to a bench of not less than two judges of the court.
(b) Where the order or decision is that of a bench, to the Supreme Court.
Provided that where the order or decision is that of the court of the judicial commissioner in any union territory, such appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court. 2) Pending any appeal. The appellate court may order that -   (a) The execution of the punishment or order appealed against be suspended
(b) If the appellant is in confinement, he be released on bail, and
(c) The appeal be heard notwithstanding that the appellant has not purged his contempt. (3) Where any person aggrieved by any order against which an appeal may be filed satisfied the high court that he intends to prefer an appeal, the high court may also exercise all or any of the powers conferred by sub section (2).
(4) An appeal under sub section (1) shall be filed-   (a) In the case of an appeal to a bench of the high court, within 30 days.
(b) In the case of an appeal to the Supreme Court, within 60 days, from the date of the order appealed against.   Comments
(a) When thee high court acquits the contemner, no appeal lies; Subhash Chandra v B R Kakkar, (1992) 2 Punj Lr 46 (P & H).
(ii) If the order of committal for contempt of court is made -
(b) By a single judge of the high court, an appeal lies to a division bench thereof; or
(c) By a division bench of the high court, an appeal lies to the Supreme Court, as of a statutory right; Mohammad Idris v R J Babuji, (1984) 2 Crimes 880 (SC).
(iii) It is not each and every order passed during the contempt proceedings that is appealable; S P Wahi v Surendra Singh, 1983 Cr LJ 1426.
(iv) An appeal does not automatically operate as a stay of the order appealed against; Hans Raj v state of Himachal Pradesh, 1985 Cr LJ 1030. 20. Limitation for actions for contempt - No court shall initiate any proceedings if contempt, either on its own motion or otherwise, after the expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed.   Comments 
(i) Initiation of any proceedings for contempt is barred after the expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed; V M Kanade v Madhao Gadkari, (1990) 1 Mah LR 544 (Bom).
(ii) No intervening event or order stops the running of time specified in this section; Golcha Avertising Agency v the state of Maharashtra, (1990) 2 Bom CR 262 (Bom).
(iii) The expression 'court' denotes a high court or the Supreme Court; the state of Bihar v Ambika Roy, 1991 Cr LJ 82 (Pat).
(iv) The provisions of the Limitation Act, 1963 do not apply; Krishnalal Chhoteylal, (1987) 13 ALR 44.
(v) Delay in initiating contempt proceedings cannot be condoned; T M A Abdul Hamed v S Radhakrishnan, 1989 LW (Crl) 237. 21. Act not to apply to nyaya panchayatas or other village courts - Nothing contained in this Act shall apply in relation to contempt of nyaya panchayats or other village courts, by whatever name known, for the administration of justice, established under any law. 22. Act to be in addition to, and not in derogation of, other laws relating to contempt - The provisions of this Act shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of the provision of any other law relating to contempt of courts.   Comments 
The provisions incorporated in the Act are supplemented to already existing law of contempt; Harish Chandra Misra v S Ali Ahmed, AIR 1986 Pat 65. 23. Power of the Supreme Court and high court to make rules - The Supreme Court or, a case may be, any high court, may make rules, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, providing for any matter relating to its procedure.   Comments 
The court is guided by its own procedure to be followed in the facts and circumstances of each individual case and to see that the condemner is getting full opportunity to make his defence; Mohammed Vamin v O P Bansal, 1982 Cr LJ 322 (Raj). 24. Repeal - The Contempt of Courts Act, 1952 (32 of 1952) is hereby repealed.   Comments 
(i) This section repealed the Contempt of Courts Act, 1952 (32 of 1952) with effect from 24-12-1991 which had already repealed the Contempt to Courts Act, 1926 (XII of 1926 w.e.f. 14-3-1952
(ii) For contempts committed prior to this Act, action could be taken under the Repealed Act (32 of 1952); see Ramniklal Nanalal v.Shah Pranlal Nahchand, AIR 1952 Kutch 74. Rules to regulate proceedings for contempt to the Supreme Court, 1975 G.S.R. 142 - In exercise of the powers under section 23 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 read with article 145 of the Constitution of India and all other powers enabling it in this behalf, the Supreme Court hereby makes, with the approval of the President, the following rules -   1. (1) These rules may be called the rules to regulate proceedings for contempt of the Supreme Court, 1975.
(2) They shall come into force on the date of their publication in the official gazette (Note: published in the gazette of India, dated February 1, 1975 and came into force from that date.
2. (1) Where contempt is committed in view or presence or hearing of the court, the contemnor may be punished by the court before which it is committed either forthwith or on such date as may be appointed by the court in that behalf.
(2) Pending the determination of the charge, the court may direct that the contemnor shall be detained in such custody as it may specify.
Provided that the contemnor may be released on bail on such terms as the court may direct.
3. In case of contempt other than the contempt referred to in rule 2, the court may take action.     (a) Suo motu, or
(b) On a petition made by attorney general, or solicitor general, or 
(c) On a petition made by any person, and in the case of a criminal contempt with the consent in writing of the attorney general or the solicitor general.   4. (a) Every petition under Rule 3 (b) or (c) shall contain:     (i) The name, description and place of residence of the petitioner or petitioners and of the persons charged.
(ii) Nature of the contempt alleged, and such material facts, including the date or dates of commission of the alleged contempt, as may be necessary for the proper determination of the case. 
(iii) If a petition has previously been made by him on the same facts, the petitioners shall give the details of the petition previously made and shall also indicate the result thereof.   (b) The petition shall be supported by an affidavit.
(c) Whether the petitioner relies upon a document or documents in his possession or power, he shall file such document or documents or true copies thereof with the petition.
(d) No court-fee shall be payable on the petition, and on any documents filed in the proceedings.   5. Every petition under rule 3 (b) and (c) shall be posted before the court for preliminary hearing and for orders as to issue of notice. Upon such hearing, the court, if satisfied that no prima facie case has been made out for issue of notice, may dismiss the petition, and, if not so satisfied direct that notice of the petition be issued to the contemnor.
6. (1) Notice to the person charged shall be in Form 1. The person charged shall, unless otherwise ordered, appear in person before the court a directed on the date fixed for hearing of the proceeding, and shall continue to remain present during hearing till the proceeding is finally disposed of by order of the court
(2) When action is instituted on petition, a copy of the petition along with the annexure and affidavits shall be served upon the person charged.
7. The person charged may file his reply duly supported by an affidavit or affidavits.
8. No further affidavit or document shall be filed except with the leave of the court.
9. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, seven copies of the paper book shall be prepared in the registry, one for the petitioner, one for the opposite party and the remaining for the use of the court. The paper book in case shall be prepared at the expense of the central government and shall consist of the following documents:     (i) Petition and affidavits filed by the petitioner,
(ii) A copy of, or a statement relating to, the objectionable matter constituting the alleged contempt.
(iii) Replay and affidavits of the parties.
(iv) Documents filed by the parties.
(v) Any other document which the registrar may deem fit to include.   10. The court may direct the attorney-general or solicitor-general to appear and assist the court.
11. (1) The court may, if it has reason to believe, that the person charged is absconding or is otherwise evading service of notice, or if he fails to appear in person or to continue to remain present in person in pursuance of the notice, direct a warrant bailable or non-bailable for his arrest, addressed to one or more police officers or may order attachment of property. The warrant shall be issued under the signature of the registrar. The warrant shall be in Form II and shall be executed, as far as may be in the manner provided for execution of warrants under the code of criminal procedure.
(2) The warrant shall be execute by the officer to officers to whom it is directed, and may also be executed by any other police officer whose name is endorsed upon the warrant by the officer to whom it is directed or endorsed.
(3) Where a warrant is to be executed outside the union territory of Delhi, the court may instead of directing such warrant to police officer, forward it to the magistrate of the district or the superintendent of police or commissioner of police of the district within which the person charged is believed to be residing. The magistrate or the police officer to whom the warrant is forwarded shall endorse his name thereon, and cause it to be executed.
(4) Every person who is arrested and detained shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24 hours of such arrest excluding the time necessary for the from the place of arrest to the court of the magistrate, and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate.   12. The court may, either suo motu, or on motion made for that purpose, order the attendance for cross-examination, for a person whose affidavit has been filed in the matter.
13. The court may make orders for the purpose of securing the attendance of any person to be examined as a witness and for discovery of production of any document.
14. The court may pass such orders as it thinks fit including orders as to costs which may recovered as if the order were a decree of the court.
15. Save as otherwise provided by the rules contained herein, the provisions of the Supreme Court Rules, 1966 shall, so far as may be, apply to proceedings in relation to proceedings in contempt under this part.
16. Where a person charged with contempt is adjusted guilty and is sentenced to suffer imprisonment, a warrant of commitment a d detention shall be made out in Form IV under the signature of the registrar. Every such warrant shall remain in force until it is cancelled by order of the court on until it is executed. The superintendent of the jail shall in pursuance of the order receive the person so adjusted and detain him in custody for the period specified therein, or until further orders. 
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