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Examining The Foundations Of Contempt In Indian Judiciary: A Case Commentary On In Re: Vinay Chandra Mishra

This is a case of criminal contempt on the part of Mr. Vinay Chandra Mishra when, on 9th March 1994 the case of M/s Bansal Forgings Ltd v. UP Financial Corporation was being heard. The facts of this case were that M/s Bansal Forgings had taken a loan from UP Financial Corporation and made default in payment of an instalment of the loan amount. As a result, the Finance Corporation proceeded against the Company under Section 29 of the State Financial Corporation Act, 1951. The Company in opposition to the same filed a civil suit against the Corporation and also submitted an application for obtaining temporary injunction. The Trial Court ordered the Company to pay the instalment of the loan amount and furnish a security for the disputed amount. At the same time, they passed an injunction order against the sale of the assets of the Company.

As a result, an appeal was made before the Allahabad High Court. The primary ground on which the appeal had been made was that the Trial Court had no jurisdiction to pass an order for directing the Company to pay the instalment amount. In the Allahabad High Court, where the appeal was made, Mr. Vinay Chandra Mishra appeared as Counsel for the appellants.

In the Appellate Court, when Justice Keshote asked Advocate Vinay Chandra Mishra that under which provision has the lower court passed its order, he started shouting. He further stated that no question shall be put to him at this particular stage and that he'll get the judge transferred or get a motion of impeachment initiated against him in the Parliament. He further went onto state that he has turned over many judges like this in the past.

As a result, Justice Keshote wrote a letter to inform the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court about this mishappening, which the then-acting Chief Justice VK Krishna forwarded to the Chief Justice of India through a letter on 05.04.1994.

The Chief Justice of India constituted a three-judge bench in the Supreme Court to hear this matter suo moto.

Case Citation: (1995) 2 SCC 584
Date Of Judgement: 10th March 1995
Court: Hon'ble Supreme Court of India
Case No: Contempt Petition (Crl) No 3 of 1994
Nature of Case: Criminal
Bench: Kuldip Singh, JS Verma and PB Sawant, JJ

  1. Whether the Supreme Court of India has the jurisdiction to initiate contempt proceedings against Advocate Vinay Chandra Mishra?
  2. Whether Advocate Vinay Chandra Mishra should be held liable for committing Contempt of Court?
Laws Applicable
The laws primarily applicable in this case are as follows:
  1. Article 129 of the Constitution of India
  2. Article 215 of the Constitution of India
  3. Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971
  4. Section 16 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

Arguments advanced by the contemner
The accused contemner Advocate Vinay Chandra Mishra had primarily raised the following contentions. He made these contentions through a reply to the notice provided to him to show the cause as to why contempt proceedings shall not be initiated against him.
  1. He firstly contended that the High Court judge had disregarded all his arguments and threatened to set aside the entire order without any sufficient grounds. The advocate stated that since the appellant had dominion over the case, it couldn't be made any worse just because the High Court had been approached.
  2. He further sought to justify his earlier remarks made before the Justice Keshote, wherein he stated that he can get an impeachment proceeding initiated against the Judge in the Parliament. He clarified that he never explicitly mentioned this. These remarks were based on the context in which the judge expressed his reluctance to serve in the Allahabad High Court, noting that his preference was disregarded by the Chief Justice of India.
  3. He further denied the allegations made by Justice Keshote that the advocate had not replied to the question of provision under which the Court can be approached. He stated that the contents of the notice and even the letter sent by Justice Keshote were completely 'vague' and didn't warrant a reply.
  4. He further contended that if the judge had to believe that the contempt was committed, the proceedings would have been initiated under Article 2151 of the Indian Constitution by the Senior Judge who was to direct the proceedings or even by Justice Keshote himself. However, Justice Keshote deferred the matter and adopted a completely suspicious and deceptive manner to write to the acting Chief Justice for doing something about it.
  5. The contemner further stated that the language used by the Judge was completely inappropriate. A judge threatening the advocate that they can resort to Goondaism if need be shall create an unfavorable public opinion about the genuineness or competency of the Courts. This will, in turn, lower the authority of the Court and shall rather scandalize it, thereby amounting to contempt by Judge under Section 16 of Contempt of Courts Act, 1971
  6. He further stated that he was being roughed up by the Judge just because of his fearless stand. Any punishment given to him for expressing his views in an outspoken and unfiltered manner would be in clear violation of freedom of speech and expression as well as freedom of profession under Articles 19(1)(a)3 and 19(1)(g)4 of the Indian Constitution.
  7. He also complained that he never received a copy of the letter of the acting Chief Justice which effectively left him handicapped.
  8. In the reply, contemner asked for an enquiry to be carried out against Justice Keshote. He further clarified that the motive behind it is not to take any form of revenge or because of any personal vindications but to uphold the very dignity, purity and trust in the legal profession and process.
  9. Lastly, he declared that he has due respect and regard to the Courts of India and never intended to lower its dignity through any of his acts. He neither intends and has never intended to commit contempt of any Court.
These were all the arguments primarily advanced by Advocate Vinay Chandra Mishra in the present case. These were majorly based on the proceedings that took place in the Allahabad High Court between the Judge and the Advocate. Further, the advocate even stated that it was the judge who had committed contempt under Section 16 of the Act by threatening a fearless advocate by directly indicating that they were capable of resorting to Goondaism.

He refuted all allegations made in the notice and called for an investigation along with the production of evidence and the affidavits which the Court may find to be satisfactory.

Analysis of Ratio Decidendi
Supreme Court shall have the jurisdiction to initiate and punish for contempt of Court under Article 129
As per Article 1295 of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court shall be the Court of record and can also exersize its power to punish for contempt of itself. Through a bare interpretation of this provision, it can be ascertained that Supreme Court shall have no jurisdiction to punish for contempt of a High Court. This was also primarily contended by the contemner.

However, the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the present case held that Article 129 vests with it the power to punish for contempt of even the High Courts or the other lower Courts for the purpose of discharging its obligations as a custodian of the administration of the justice system. Under the Constitution, it is the highest Court of Record and has superintending powers over all the other lower and appellate Courts, thereby giving it implied powers to punish for contempt even though the contempt was towards a High Court or any subordinate court.

The Court referred to the case of Delhi Judicial Service Association v. State of Gujarat6 to hold that the Supreme Court is the 'highest custodian of justice' in India and for the purposes of discharging its obligations, special powers to punish for contempt of a High Court or a lower Court can certainly be granted to it.

The rule of Nemo Judex in Causa Sua has not been violated

The Supreme Court explicitly stated that the alleged contemner shall have absolutely no right to examine or ask for an investigation against a Judge before whom the contempt has been committed. There was a contempt on the face of the Court in a Facie Curiae manner i.e., in the presence of the Hon'ble High Court.

As a result, the natural rights of the contemner were absolutely taken into consideration and the rule of Nemo Judex in Causa Sua which means no one shall be a judge in his/her own case has not been violated.7 For this very reason, the case had also been transferred to the Supreme Court.

Provisions of Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 shall be attracted
Section 148 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 lays down the procedure for initiating proceedings when the contempt has been on the face of the Court.

In the present case, the contempt was on the face of the Court and the judge could have taken an action on the spot. Yet, under Section 14(3)9, in case the judge doesn't find it proper to be a prosecutor or a judge by themselves, they can refer/report the same case to the acting Chief Justice which is completely valid, even though there was a delay because of this in the present case. Further, during the entire procedure the interests of the Contemner were fully taken into consideration i.e., from providing him with the notice to providing him with adequate opportunity to counter the allegations made against him.

As a result, based on Section 14 of the Act, the Supreme Court proceeded with the contempt proceedings after considering the affidavit submitted by contemner and statement of the learned judge as evidence.

Power to take cognizance of Contempt

The Hon'ble Court as stated previously has the requisite powers under Article 129 as well as Article 14210 of the Indian Constitution to take cognizance of any offence of contempt. These powers are not restricted under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. Hence, neither the statute nor the Advocates Act, 1961 can restrict the jurisdiction of the Court in punishing an advocate for contempt or suspending the license of an advocate if they have been held to be guilty. It is a constitutional power guaranteed to a Supreme Court and the jurisdiction under Article 129 is independent of the Statutory provisions.

With respect to Article 142 of the Indian Constitution which calls for doing complete justice to the parties, the Court also quoted the cases of AR Antulay v. RS Naik11 and KM Nanavati v. State of Bombay12 to hold that the Supreme Court shall have the powers to cancel or suspend the license of an advocate for contempt under Article 129 of the Constitution read with Article 142. If Supreme Court can impose a punishment under Section 38 of Advocates Act, 1961 against an appeal for contempt, they are allowed to impose any given punishment under Article 129 read with 142 as well for contempt.

Hence, the Supreme Court shall have the power to take the cognizance even though the contempt was against a High Court for the purposes of ensuring smooth administration of the justice system.

No violation of Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution
The Supreme Court stated that its exersize of powers under Article 129 of the Indian Constitution to punish Advocate Mishra for contempt shall not be in violation of his freedom of expression or freedom of profession in any given manner.

The main reason behind the same is that there can be certain reasonable restrictions on the exersize of these rights in the interest of public order and judicial administration, as a result of which the Court also has the powers under Section 38 of Advocates Act, 1961 to cater to any appeal for contempt13.

As a result, based on all these facts and evidences, the Supreme Court held that it has the requisite jurisdiction to initiate and punish Advocate Mishra for contempt even though it was against the Allahabad High Court as a custodian of administration of justice and as per the powers assigned under Article 129 of the Indian Constitution. Secondly, it was also held that the conduct of Advocate shall amount to contempt of Court, because to resent the questions of judges, to be disrespectful, to hurl abuses at judge, to create scenes in the Court, to address the judge after losing his temper and threaten to initiate an impeachment against judge in Parliament significantly lower the reputation and authority of the Court.

These acts further obstruct the Court from performing its adjudicatory functions thereby directly obstructing process of administration of justice. This further leads to undermining the very foundation of Judiciary by shaking the confidence of persons who are capable of delivering free and fair justice.

Owing to all these reasons, the acts and demeanour of Advocate Mishra directly amounts to Criminal Contempt and he shall be liable to be punished for the same.

Based on the analysis of all the facts and evidences, the Supreme Court of India subjected Advocate Vinay Chandra Mishra to simple imprisonment for a period of 6 months. Further, he was also suspended from practicing as an advocate for a period of three years from the date of passing of the order and, as a consequence, all offices and posts held by him in capacity of an advocate were to be vacated.

This case significantly reinforced the Supreme Court's authority to address and penalize contempt, even when it is committed against a High Court, which serves as a cornerstone in the administration of justice. The judgment essentially had put judicial dignity and respecting the rule of law on highest pedestal by reaffirming the very fact that advocating and representing a client does not warrant and doesn't give the advocate power to disrespect or threaten the judiciary.

Moreover, the judgement elucidates that a Judge, under Section 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, retains the discretion to refer contempt cases to a higher court�in this instance, the Supreme Court�should they deem it inappropriate to adjudicate the matter themselves. Lastly, penalizing an advocate for actions constituting contempt does not infringe upon their freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a), especially when such actions directly lower the reputation of the Courts.

  1. Article 215, India Const
  2. Section 16, Contempt of Courts Act, No 70 of 1971
  3. Article 19(1)(a), India Const
  4. Article 19(1)(g), India Const
  5. Article 129, India Const
  6. Delhi Judicial Service Association v. State of Gujarat (1991) 4 SCC 406
  7. Surabhi Jindal, Audi Alterem Partem and Nemo Judex in Causa Sua: The Two Pillars of Natural Justice, Manupatra Articles, published 11th December, 2023 accessed 25th March 2023, available at:
  8. Section 14, Contempt of Courts Act, No 70 of 1971
  9. Section 14(3), Contempt of Courts Act, No 70 of 1971
  10. Article 142, India Const
  11. AR Antulay v. RS Naik (1988) 2 SCC 602
  12. KM Nanavati v. State of Bombay (1961) 1 SCR 497
  13. Section 38, Advocates Act, No 25 of 1961

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