What is Contempt of Court?

April 3, 2024

The Allahabad High Court recently observed that orders issued by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, are subject to appeal solely to the Supreme Court and not the High Court.

About Contempt of Court:

  • Constitutional Provisions: Article 129 of the Constitution says that the Supreme Court shall be the ‘Court of Record’ and it has all the powers of such courts including the power to punish for contempt of itself. Article 215 conferred a corresponding power on the High Courts.
  • According to the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, contempt of court can either be civil contempt or criminal contempt. 
  • Civil contempt means wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
  • On the other hand, criminal contempt means the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:
    • scandalises or tends to scandalise or lowers or tends to lower the authority of any court; or
    • prejudices, or interferes with, or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding; or
    • interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.
  • 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.
  • What is not contempt of court?
    • Fair and accurate reporting of judicial proceedings will not amount to contempt of court. Nor is any fair criticism on the merits of a judicial order after a case is heard and disposed of.