In Indian legal system, concept of contempt is older than the India herself, but the earlier recorded roots can be traced back to the Regulating Act of 1773. This Act stated that the Mayor’s Court of Calcutta would enjoy the same power as the court of the English Bench to penalize in case of Contempt of Court.
Contempt of court is the act of being defiant or disrespectful to the judiciary institutions. Conducts that amount to contempt of court are:
• disobeying or opposing court’s order
• scandalizing or prejudicing court and it’s proceedings
• interfering with administration of justice
Though the Indian Constitution doesn’t explicitly state the definition of Contempt of Court, it categorises this offence into
Civil and Criminal Contempt.
• Civil Contempt: Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Court Act defines Civil Contempt as “wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order,
writ or other process of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court”;
• Criminal Contempt: Section 2(c) defines Criminal Contempt as the publication of any matter or the doing of any other act whosoever which,
(i) scandalise or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court; or
(ii) prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial
(iii) interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration
In 1926, the first Contempt of Court Act was passed, affirming the power of the High Courts to punish or judge contempt offences committed against the subordinate courts. And again, the Contempt of Court Act of 1952 replace the previous Act and also expanded the power of penalizing from High Courts to the other courts as well.