This article delves into the legal concept of contempt of court. Contempt of court is a legal doctrine designed to safeguard the administration of justice by preserving the authority and dignity of the courts. This article systematically examines the various forms of contempt, from direct and indirect to criminal and civil contempt, through an in-depth analysis of case law, statutes, and legal commentaries. This article delves into the contemporary challenges posed by technological advancements and social media. Real-world examples and landmark cases are examined to underscore the evolving nature of contemptuous behavior. Furthermore, this article delves into the procedural aspects of contempt proceedings, emphasizing due process considerations and the necessity of a fair and impartial hearing. By critically assessing the existing legal framework, the article also recommends potential reforms to ensure a more transparent and equitable contempt adjudication process. In conclusion, this comprehensive exploration aims to contribute to a nuanced understanding of contempt of court, fostering informed discussions on the challenges faced by the legal system and the need for adaptive measures to maintain the integrity of judicial proceedings.


Contempt of court is defined as any willful disobedience to, or disregard of, a court order or any misconduct in the presence of a court.

It could also be about something that degrades the court’s honour or tampers with a judge’s ability to dispense justice. A conviction for contempt of court carries a possible sentence of fines, jail time, or both. The line between criminal and civil contempt is frequently blurred.

Two types of contempt: criminal and civil.

When a contemptor obstructs the court’s ability to operate properly—by yelling at the judge, for example—it is considered criminal contempt. Because it takes place right in front of the court, this is also known as direct contempt. A criminal defendant faces fines, jail time, or both as repercussions for their actions. 

The deliberate disregard of a court order by the contemnor results in civil contempt. Because it happens outside of the judge’s direct jurisdiction and proof of the contempt must be shown to the judge, this is also known as indirect contempt. A civil defendant may also face fines, jail time, or both. Justice courts are naturally empowered to punish anyone who disobeys their procedures, violates rules and regulations, or interferes with their work.

Section 2(a) of contempt of court defines the criminal and civil contempt of court.

“Civil Contempt” refers to the deliberate violation of a court’s undertaking or willful disobedience of any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ, or other procedure.

Criminal contempt is publication of any matter—whether verbally or in writing, through signs, visual representation, or any other means—or the performance of any other act that

 (i) lowers or threatens to lower the authority of any court; 

(ii) prejudices or obstructs the proper course of any legal proceedings; or

(iii) Any action or infraction that contradicts or undermines the authority, integrity, and supremacy of the court is considered to be interfering or tending to interfere with, or obstructing or tending to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other way.

Article 129: Supreme Court to be  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.

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.

Article 129 empowers the Supreme Court, and Article 215 empowers High Courts to punish people for the contempt.

Article 142(2) of the Constitution,

 the Supreme Court has been enriched with the power to pass any order punishing the contempt of itself.


The origins of contempt of court can be found in English common law, where the judiciary affirmed its power to guarantee the impartial and unimpeded administration of justice. Early contempt laws were created to preserve the integrity of courtrooms and judges’ authority. These ideas were imported into many legal systems worldwide, changing to meet the demands of changing justice systems.

There are two main categories of contempt of court: civil and criminal. Criminal contempt involves disruptive behavior or disrespect for the court; civil contempt typically involves disregarding court instructions. Different countries have different legal frameworks that regulate contempt, including laws, case law, and procedural procedures. Comprehending these frameworks is crucial for attorneys, magistrates, and the general public.

Contempt of court has new difficulties in the digital age, especially since the introduction of social media. Information may now be shared more easily, which has increased the possibility that someone will purposefully or unintentionally break internet contempt laws. This article looks at how the legal system responds to these issues, striking a careful balance between the right to free speech and the requirement to maintain the credibility of the court system.

Contempt accusations have far-reaching consequences that affect people, cases, and the public’s opinion of the legal system. This article examines the various penalties for contempt, which include fines, jail time, and case dismissal. It also considers the wider cultural ramifications, like the decline in public confidence in the legal system and the fine line that separates criticism from disdain.


In Re: Prashant Bhushan and another 

Prashant Bhushan’s Contempt of Court Case

• Prashant Bhushan, a renowned legal figure, criticized the Supreme Court for “destructing” India’s democracy.

• He also criticized Chief Justice SA Bobde on Twitter.

• Despite a petition for the second tweet, the Supreme Court granted Bhushan’s contempt proceedings on July 21, 2020.

• The Court deemed the tweets damaging to the legal system’s reputation and the public’s perception of the Supreme Court’s authority and dignity.

• Bhushan argued that the Attorney General of India, K.K. Venugopalan, did not approve the initial petition.

• He expressed concern over the undermined rights of citizens by virtual courts.

• The tweet from July 27 was deemed genuine and not considered contempt of court.

Judgment- The Court believed that Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act and the ensuing Rule 3 explicitly stated the Supreme Court’s inherent authority to initiate suo moto contempt proceedings without the Attorney General’s approval. In addition, the Court noted that any publication that disparages a judge or the court overall, creating unjustified and false impressions about the judges’ personalities, would fall within the definition of scandalising the court. Such an act undermines people’s confidence and breeds mistrust among them. The Court noted that defamatory remarks directed at judges may be seen as directed against them personally or as judges in their capacity as judges. Although the former is not subject to contempt proceedings, the latter may face them since their actions are embarrassing to the Court. Such an act should be penalized through contempt proceedings if the vilification directly scandalizes the administration of justice and erodes the public’s trust and confidence in the judiciary, which forms the cornerstone of justice. Ultimately, the Court determined that there was no genuine aim evident in the tweets, nor did they offer a fair criticism of the judiciary’s operations. As a result, the Court found Prashant Bhushan guilty for the criminal contempt and ordered him to pay a fine of Rupee 1, failing which he would face three months in jail and a three-year ban from practicing law.

M.V. Jayarajan v. High Court of Kerala

• The appellant used unparliamentary language during a public gathering in Kannur, causing contempt proceedings.

• The Kerala High Court upheld the conviction and sentenced him to six months imprisonment.

• The appellant appealed, arguing foul language and disruption of justice should be combated.

• The court ruled that abusive language against judges and threats to resign should be repulsed.

• The appellant showed no remorse or guilt, and his remarks were not apologetic.

• The court upheld the decision, but reduced the sentence from six to four months.

Hari Singh Nagra v. Kapil Sibal

• Advocate Kapil Sibal sent a souvenir to a legal association, expressing concern about the plight of junior members of the Bar.

• The souvenir was initially distributed only among Bar members, but was published in the Times of India during the Supreme Court Bar Association’s elections.

• The court established the concept of “fair” criticism, preventing ridicule that hampers public confidence and undermines justice.

• The court welcomed reasonable, rational, and sober criticism, not influenced by tactics.

• Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution talk about freedom of speech and expression to criticize court judgments, treating it as a necessary right of the people.

• Fair criticism on the working of judges and courts can be made without being considered contempt of court.

Abhyudaya Mishra v. Kunal Kamra

• Initiated in 2020, the case involves stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra accused of degrading the Supreme Court’s authority through social media tweets.

• Kamra’s tweets criticised the Supreme Court’s fast-tracked bail plea of Republic TV Chief Arnab Goswami.

• Attorney General KK Venugopalan initiated contempt proceedings against Kamra, stating his tweets were of bad taste.

• Kamra argued that his jokes were not reality and that claiming to shake the Supreme Court’s foundation was an overestimation.

• The court assent to Kamra’s rejoinders, confirming the allegations.


In concluding this exploration of contempt of court, it becomes clear that maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of legal proceedings depends on this legal principle. The extensive examination has covered historical development, legal foundations, current issues, and the broad ramifications of contemporary law.

The legal system that governs contempt is complex and includes both civil and criminal components. Examining the legal components essential for contempt charges has highlighted the exacting standards needed to prove deliberate disobedience, deliberate obstruction of justice, or conduct that disrupts court processes. The division of contempt into civil and criminal categories offers a more sophisticated understanding of the various forms this idea might take.

Court decisions should be respected, and no one can interfere with them. An adequate system should be built to make Assessing Officers accountable for their appeals. Failure to do so undermines respect for court law and constitutional authority. The power to punish for contempt is extraordinary, but when public interest demands it, the Court will impose punishment, even imprisonment, where a mere fine may not be adequate.

The delicate balance that must be struck between the right to free speech and the need to uphold judicial integrity is at the center of this analysis. Examining this balance emphasizes the need to preserve the authority and respect owed to the judiciary while acknowledging the constitutional safeguards granted to free speech.

The legal complexities of contempt of court have been clarified by this thorough examination. This investigation advances a more sophisticated comprehension of the function of contempt in the legal system by dissecting its historical roots, legal components, due process issues, and consequences in the digital era. 



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