Contempt of Court or Contempt has been defined as any conduct which tends to
disrespect or overlook the authority of Law and Order. The expression ‘contempt
of court’ has not been defined by the Constitution. Although:
Grants Supreme Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.
Enables the Supreme Court to investigate and punish any person for its contempt.
Grants every High Court the power to punish for contempt of itself.
The law regarding contempt has been made for preserving the dignity of the
courts and keeping the administration of justice properly. According to Halsbury,
Contempt consists of any words, spoken or written which obstruct the course of
administration of justice.
The Contempt of Court Act, 1971, defines the power of courts to punish for their
contempt and regulates their procedure. It seeks to protect judicial
institutions from any kind of disobedience towards judges, or obstruction in the
implementation of their directives, or comments and actions that exhibits
disrespect. Such a person can be punished under section 12 of the Act.
Need for Contempt Law
To protect the judiciary from unfair attacks and to thwart an unexpected fall in
the judiciary’s status in the eyes of public. Also, to uphold the majesty and
dignity of the judiciary.
Contempt powers assist judges to perform their duties, for instance deciding
cases without fear, biasness, affection or animosity.
Section 10: Power of High Court to punish contempt 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 contempt of courts subordinate to it as it has and exercises in respect of
contempt of itself.
Provided that no High Court shall take cognizance 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).
Power of High Court to try offences committed or offenders found
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.
Section 12: Punishment for contempt of court
- 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 (1) for any contempt either in respect of itself or of a court
subordinate to it.
Section 15: Cognizance of criminal contempt in other cases.
- 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 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.
Relevant Case Laws:
In Delhi Judicial Service Association vs. State of Gujarat,
Relevant para nos.: Para 19, 21, 26 to 31, 37 and 38.
The above mentioned case is a Landmark Judgment where the Supreme Court ruled
out that it has the power to punish for contempt not only of itself but also of
high courts, subordinate courts and tribunals functioning in the entire country
and is not against the constitution of India. Both the Supreme Court as well as
High Courts are courts of record. The Constitution does not define Court of
Record, but this expression is well recognized in juridical world. A Court of
record is a court whereof the acts and judicial proceedings are enrolled for a
perpetual memorial and testimony, and has power of summarily punishing contempt
of itself as well as of subordinate courts.
The High Court being a court of record has inherent power in respect of contempt
of itself as well as of its subordinate courts even in the absence of any
express provision in any Act. The Supreme Court being the Apex court and a
superior court of record has the power to determine its jurisdiction
under Article 129 and jurisdiction to initiate or entertain proceedings for
contempt of the subordinate courts. This view does not run counter to any
provision of the Constitution.
In E Bapanaiah vs. K.S. Raju & others,
Relevant para nos.: Para 25 to 27.
Powers of the High Courts to punish for contempt including the powers to punish
for contempt of itself flow from Article 215 of the Constitution of India.
Section 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 empowers the High Courts to
punish contempt of its subordinate courts. The Company Law Board is judicially
subordinate to the High Court and, even if it’s administrative control is held
not to vest in the High Court under Section 10 of the 1971 Act.
In Dayal Singh & others vs. State of Uttaranchal,
Relevant para nos.: Para 42 and 47.2.
The Supreme Court in this case held, as there was no action taken by the
superior authority of the concerned departments. This court hold them guilty
under Contempt of Court Act, 1971.
In P.D. vs. UW 
Relevant para nos.: Para 29.
In view of the fact that the petitioner has succeeded in demonstrating, prima
facie, that the respondent has committed contempt of the order, passed by the
Family Court, Dwarka. Therefore he is called upon to show cause as to why he
should not be punished under Section 10 read with 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts
In Pamela Manmohan Singh vs. Harnam Kaur & Others, 
Relevant para nos.: Para 11 and 12.
The respondents 2 and 3 have violated the orders passed by the subordinate
court. The question that now arises is how the said respondents to be dealt
with. Insofar as the punishment under Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act,
1971 is concerned; 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. In the facts and circumstances of the current
case, a fine of Rs 2,000/- was imposed on each of the contemnors.
In Santosh Kapoor vs. Apex Computers P. Ltd. 
Relevant para nos.: Para 3, 26 and 27.
From the aforementioned facts, I am of the view that right from the inception
the Respondent had no intention of paying any amount and he agreed for a
settlement and gave post-dated cheques as well as repeated undertakings,
including the last one, only with the intent of gaining time and delaying the
execution proceedings. The respondent intentionally and deliberately adopted
such a course of action, despite having other options. Consequently, 1 am of the
opinion that it is a clear case of wilful breach of an undertaking given to the
Executing Court and the petitioner is guilty of contempt of court.
In Vir Bhan vs. MCD, 
Relevant page nos: [Pg. 266-C & D].
In the present case not only was the petition admitted but permission was given
to file additional affidavits and counter affidavits, and even oral evidence was
taken before a learned Judge of this court. After all the time taken and leading
evidence it seems to me inappropriate to refuse at this stage to entertain this
petition and drive the parties to another round of tortuous litigation involving
considerable expense and time. And the court further held the person to be
guilty of contempt of court.
Thus, under Article 129 and 142(2) of the Constitution of India, The Supreme
Court ruled out that it has the power to punish for contempt not only of itself
but also of high courts, subordinate courts and tribunals functioning in the
entire country and is not against any provisions or Acts. Therefore, The Supreme
Court being the Apex court has the jurisdiction to initiate or entertain
proceedings for contempt of the subordinate courts as well.
Under Article 215 of the Constitution of India, High Court being a court of
record has inherent power in respect of contempt of itself as well as of its
subordinate courts even in the absence of any express provision in any Act.
Also Section 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 empowers the High Courts to
punish contempt of its subordinate courts.
It should be noted here that The power of the High Courts to punish for
contempt of a subordinate court is derived from legislation and not from the
- (1991) 4 SCC 406.
- (2015) 1 SCC 451.
- (2012) 8 SCC 263.
- 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8908.
- 2008 SCC OnLine Del 643.
- 2009 SCC OnLine Del 129.
- 1974 SCC OnLine Del 179.
- Durga Das Basu, Commentary on the Constitution of India 5628 (LexisNexis
Butterworths Wadhwa, Nagpur, Vol. 5, 8th Edition).