Author – Aditya Sharma                                                                       5th year Law Student (Chandigarh University)


Contempt of court is basically described as disobedience of lawyers towards court and proceedings. It is the foremost duty of the lawyers to respect the decision or judgment of the court and no one has the audacity to interfere with the day-to-day working of the court, and with this, the constitution has given special powers to high court and supreme court to punish the person who goes against the decision of the court or who disobeys in front of the Hon’ble judges of high court and supreme court. As we all know, law is considered as a very noble profession of all and it demands certain ethics and etiquette from lawyers towards this profession. In legal theory, contempt of court has been described as a broader concept which confers rights and duties towards judges and lawyers respectively. The court exercises its extraordinary power in punishing for contempt of court. This contempt of court can be ordered in the public interest or as the judge may find suitable for the punishment. The court has the power to impose heavy fines on the person who commits the offence of contempt of court. In today’s scenario, contempt of court is considered as a serious offence to save the dignity of this profession from being destroyed by the culprits.



Contempt of court is a formal way of expressing negative views against the decision of the court or not obeying the judgment or the decision of the court. Contempt of court is regarded as a formal disobedience towards the judges or towards the court. Contempt of court can be of two types i.e., inside the court and outside the court. Inside the court, the person or lawyer who does not obey the manners or disobeys the judges or do not maintain the decorum of the court can be considered under inside the court and can be held liable for the contempt of court and trial can be instituted against that person or the lawyer. Outside the court, whenever the person or lawyer makes any discriminatory remarks for the judgment which harms the reputation or integrity of the court or the judge, may be held liable for the contempt. In layman’s language, contempt of court can be said as willful disobedience of the court’s order. The act of contempt of court denotes or represents the disrepute of the high authority in the court (JUDGES). Whenever any person by the act of contempt shakes the administration of law or justice, then under Indian constitution legal administration has got the right to punish the offenders to uphold the dignity of the court and ensure its smooth functioning. Whenever any judgment is announced by the supreme court, it’s the foremost duty of the inferior court to abide by the decision of the court. If the inferior court does not follow the judgment of the supreme court, this act falls under the parlance of contempt of court committed by the latter court. For maintaining law and order, the supreme court can take cognizance of the offence committed by the latter court to meet the ends of justice or to save the ends of law of administration in public interest.

As we all know, government has mainly 3 organs i.e., legislative, executive, and judiciary, each of them has its own significatory functions. Judiciary is the main head which is solely responsible for law and order and to meet the ends of justice or the administration of justice. Justice is served through court. Contempt of court is a crucial legal topic aimed to maintain the dignity of the court and the authority of the judiciary. It plays a key role and serves as a tool to ensure effective administration of justice by punishing the culprits who disrespect or willfully disobey the role of judicial process.

This concept of contempt of court is not a new concept but has deep roots in history and its historical background plays a significant role in judiciary and to maintain the dignity of the court or to save the dignity of this profession as well. This topic contempt of court has been derived from ancient India. In earlier times, kings used to punish the persons who willfully disobey the king’s judgment or does not follow the court’s order, so the king or the court in earlier times used to have the power to penalize those who contradicted the administration of justice. The present prevailing contempt of court originated from the pre-independence era. The Contempt of Court Act 1926 was the first legislation in India specifically dealing with contempt of court issues only. According to this section, it specifies the special power of the high court to punish contempt of court. The high court shall have the power and authority in accordance with the same procedure and practice in respect of contempt of courts subordinate to it has and exercises in respect of contempt of itself. Provided that the high court shall not take cognizance of contempt alleged to have been committed in respect of court subordinate to it where such contempt is an offence punishable under Indian Penal Code. Later in the legislation, a new bill was passed and the new act came into force with the Contempt of Court Act 1952. In 1960, the government was of the opinion to alter the provision of the act which subsequently led to the formation of a committee named the Sanyal Committee to examine the current law and the proposed bill. Then the committee submitted its report in 1963, and after much discussion, the bill finally became an act in 1971, repealing the previous one.

Section 2(a) of Contempt of Court Act 1971 states that contempt of court means civil contempt and criminal contempt. Civil contempt generally means willfully disobeying the court’s judgment, decree, or court’s order in a process of judicial proceeding or willful breach of a judge’s order in court. Criminal contempt means by the order publication of words, spoken or written, or by signs or by visual representation of any matter or doing any act whatsoever which:

1. Scandalizes or lowers the position of any court; or

2. Prejudices or interferes with judicial proceeding; or

3. Interferes with or obstructs the administration of justice in any other manner, is a behavior of wrongdoing that straight away challenges the superior court or questions the authority of the superior court.

Thus, under section 2(c), criminal contempt does not merely refer to the publication of words or to those written or spoken; it also includes whoever scandalizes or tries to scandalize or lower the authority of the superior court so any act that interferes with the administration of justice can be included in criminal contempt.


Substantive power is provided under the Indian constitution to courts. The constitution has given two benchmark provisions on which the courts rely:

1. Article 129 of constitution of India which makes the supreme court a court of record and confers the power to punish for the contempt of itself.

2. Article 142 of constitution of India which allows the court to punish for contempt subject to any other law.

It is important to understand that prior Article 108 (now Article 129) did not have the provisions related to contempt of court for which Dr. Ambedkar argued. Then Article 215 of the Indian constitution plays a key role in contempt, which confers the power to the high courts in terms of contempt. This article states that high courts are to be courts of record and have the power of such a court including power to punish for contempt of itself. In a landmark case of T. Sudhakar Prasad vs Govt of India & ors, the supreme court held that the jurisdiction contemplated by Articles 215 and 129 is inalienable. It cannot be taken away from any legislative enactment subordinate to the constitution. The provisions of the Contempt of Court Act complement Articles 215 and 129, meaning the provisions are in addition to these articles of the Indian constitution. The constitutional provisions related to contempt of court are inherently in nature and cannot be disturbed or weakened by any other legislative act.

In a landmark case of Prashant Bhushan, a senior advocate of the supreme court of India was charged with contempt of court in the year 2020. In that case, the facts were that Adv. Prashant Bhushan was alleged to have made negative remarks on social media against the chief justice of India. Prashant Bhushan took to Twitter (now X) to post two tweets: the first one criticizing the role played by four chief justices of India, and the second post criticized the chief justice in relation to a photograph of him posing with a motorcycle without a mask while the courts were shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Justice Arun Mishra stated that these comments were not just personal opinions but were made to shake public confidence in the judiciary. As India is a democratic country and everyone is allowed freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. As it’s a part of the integral part of society. Article 19(1)(a) provides that every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, this right is not absolute, it does have certain restrictions under Article 19(2). When it comes to scandalizing the power or position of a high judicial authority or questioning the superior judicial authority, then the constitutional provisions do not apply and lead to contempt of court. The maximum punishment under this act is two years. In the year 2013, on the recommendation of the law commission, the offence of scandalizing the court as a ground of criminal contempt was abolished.


1. Upholding Public Confidence – By penalizing acts that undermine judicial authority, contempt laws uphold public confidence in the judiciary and the rule of law.

2. Protecting individual rights – Civil & contempt provisions protect individual rights by ensuring compliance with court orders such as those related to child custody, alimony, or injunctions.

3. Respecting judicial authority – Contempt laws ensure that court orders are respected and followed reinforced the judicial authority and effectiveness.

4. Maintaining court decorum – These laws maintain law and order and court decorum by punishing behavior that disrupts proceedings or disrespects the court.

5. Facilitating justice – Contempt laws prevent abuses of the judicial process,       ensuring that the court’s orders are enforced, and justice is served.

  1. As contempt of court is a crucial concept to save the dignity of this profession from being violated and to meet the ends of justice without any failure or delay. The legal profession is a noble profession, and it is the duty of both the lawyer and every citizen to obey the court’s order and maintain the court decorum in front of the judge.


In conclusion, the concept of contempt of court has a deep impact on the legal profession, placing the burden on the court to ensure fair justice to the public. Contempt of court has a significant impact on the judicial system and has a deep impact on access to justice. Contempt of court plays an important role in the proper process of court proceedings, so it is very important that the provision of the act should not be misused. If it is misused, it will act negatively or retrospectively on the right to freedom of speech and expression. Judiciary is one of the three pillars of the government and is known as the watchdog of democracy.







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *