Code of Conduct and Contempt of Court

The legal system that exists now is the culmination of a protracted journey that began with the divine rule that was announced and continued through the natural law and further to the present-day positive law. In addition to punishing those who attempt to undermine the legitimacy or authority of the legal systems, contempt of court is a matter that pertains to the idea that justice should be administered equitably.

What is Meaning of Contempt of Court?

The Contempt of Court can be referred to as disrespectful or disobedient towards the court of law, wilfully failing to obey the court order, or disrespecting the legal authorities. It helps maintain law and order and protects the authority of the court of law. In India, it has been defined in The Contempt of Courts Act 1971.

Constitutional Basis

There are two articles in the constitution which talks about contempt of court-

  • Article 129 − The Constitution of India has established the Supreme Court and the High Courts in India as a court of record. This also includes all the power, including the ability to punish for contempt of itself. The court of record means it has all its proceedings for an everlasting memory. The facts here shall not be questioned and have a higher authority.

  • Article 142(2) − The Supreme Court has all and every power to make any order to secure the attendance of any person, the discovery or production of any documents, or the investigation or punishment of any contempt of itself.

Types of Contempt

The Contempt of Court Act 1971 classifies contempt into two −

  • Civil Contempt of Court

  • Criminal Contempt of Court

The object of each contempt is to ensure that the administration of justice is upheld.

Civil Contempt of Court

Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 defines “civil contempt” as wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ, or other processes of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a Court. The term “wilful” means doing some act voluntarily forbidden by law or omission to do some act that the law requires that person to perform. Its purpose is to compel a party to obey the order of the court passed against him.

The undertaking given to the Court has to be respected and cannot be permitted to be circumvented. If permitted, disobedience of an order of the Court will strike back to the roots of the rule of law on which our system of governance is based.

Criminal Contempt of Court

Section 2(c) of the Act defines "criminal contempt" as the publication, whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations of any matter or the doing of any other act that −

  • Scandalizes or tends to scandalize, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of any court; or,

  • Prejudices, or interferes 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.

Scandalizing the authority

Any publication that deters the litigants from diminishing their confidence in the court for the administration of justice or creates an apprehension regarding the worthiness or fairness of the court or the judge constitutes scandalizing the court's authority.

Interference with the Judicial proceedings

Any interference in the proceedings that denies any litigants their right to a fair trial constitutes contempt. Media trial is one such type of interference. Actual interference is not required; a mere act likely to interfere can constitute the offense.

Interference with the Administration of Justice

Administration of justice implies that the public has unhindered access to the courts for disputes. And once such a dispute is registered with the court, there should not be any interference.

Punishment for the Contempt

Section 12 of the Act deals with the punishment for Contempt of Court. High Court and the Supreme Court have been given the power to punish someone for the Contempt of Court. The judge has the right to impose sanctions such as fines or send the contemnor to jail for a certain period if he is found guilty of Contempt of Court. The punishment prescribed is simple imprisonment, which can extend up to six months, or with a fine which may extend to two thousand rupees.

Remedies for Contempt of Court

An accused may be discharged, and the punishment awarded to him may be remitted if he apologizes. This court should be satisfied by the apology; then, only he can be exempted from the punishment of Contempt of Court. The reasoning behind this is that the accused might be-

  • Under Lack of Knowledge of the order; or,

  • If The order that has been disobeyed is vague or ambiguous; or,

  • If he made an apology the bona fide, then this apology shall not be rejected because it is conditional or qualified.


Contempt of court, which is a provision that defines code of conduct inside the court, is the way of punishing the person who disobeys the court’s order. However, the overlap of the contempt powers under the Indian Penal Code, the Contempt of Courts Act, and the contempt powers of the Supreme Court and High Courts under the Indian Constitution appears to be the cause of the issues in this regard.

With regard to various provisions of the Indian Penal Code dealing with interference with the administration of justice and the exclusion clause in the Contempt of Courts Act, the situation has become more complicated due to the inconsistent interpretations followed by the Supreme Court and High Courts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the Contempt of Court Act 1971?

Ans. The Contempt of Court Act 1971 is a law that defines and regulates the offense of contempt of court. It sets out the rules and procedures for punishing individuals who violate the dignity and authority of a court, including disrupting court proceedings, disobeying court orders, publishing prejudicial material, and interfering with the administration of justice.

Q2. What are the penalties for contempt under the Contempt of Court Act 1971?

Ans. The penalties for contempt of court can vary depending on the severity of the offense. They can include fines, imprisonment, and disqualification from holding certain positions. The maximum penalty for criminal contempt of court is two years imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for civil contempt of court is an unlimited fine.

Q3. How does the Contempt of Court Act 1971 protect the judicial system's integrity?

Ans. The Contempt of Court Act 1971 protects the judicial system's integrity by ensuring that courts can operate effectively and without interference. It discourages individuals from engaging in behavior that could undermine the court's authority or impede the administration of justice. By punishing those who commit contempt of court, the act helps to maintain public confidence in the legal system.

Q4. Who can bring a charge of contempt of court under the Contempt of Court Act 1971?

Ans. A charge of contempt of court can be brought by any person, including a judge, a party to the proceedings, or a member of the public. However, the Attorney General can bring proceedings in serious court contempt cases.

Q5. Can a court impose reporting restrictions to prevent contempt under the Contempt of Court Act 1971?

Ans. A court can impose reporting restrictions to prevent contempt under the Contempt of Court Act 1971. These restrictions can prevent the publication of certain information that could prejudice the administration of justice, such as the identity of a witness or the details of an ongoing investigation.

Updated on: 08-May-2023


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