Who can you complain to about a grievance under contempt law?

Last updated on Aug 23, 2022

Any person can file a complaint against a third party on an alleged offence of contempt of court. Such an application can be forwarded to either the Supreme Court, High Court, or to the court of Judicial Commissioner in cases of Union Territories, in the form of a petition. However, such an application can only be made with the written consent of: 

  • Attorney General or Solicitor General, in case of the Supreme Court.(( Section 15(1)(b), read with Explanation (a) of Section 15, Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.)) 
  • Advocate General, in case of High Courts.(( Section 15(1)(b), read with Explanation (b) of Section 15, Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.))
  • The Law Officer specified by the Central Government, in case of the court of Judicial Commissioner.(( Section 15(1)(b), read with Explanation (c) of Section 15, Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.))

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What does the law say you can/cannot do?

While anything that lowers the authority of the courts can be considered as contempt, there are certain exceptions given in the law. These include innocent publication and distribution of matter, fair and accurate reporting of a judicial proceeding, fair criticism of judicial actions, complaint against presiding officers of subordinate courts and truth.

What is Contempt of Court?

Contempt of court is any action or writing, meant to lower the authority of a court or a Judge or to interfere with the course of justice or the lawful process of the court.

Where can contempt of court happen?

Contempt of court can happen anywhere - inside court, outside court, on social media. etc. Further, contempt proceedings can be taken up by either the Supreme Court, High Court, or Tribunals. However, the procedure to initiate proceedings will differ based on the place where the alleged contempt happens.

Who are the authorities under the law?

The Constitution of India, 1950 empowers the Supreme Court and High Courts to have the powers to punish for contempt.

Is there a right to appeal against a contempt of court decision?

The law only allows a person to appeal against the decision once. If the appeal fails, no further remedy is present under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.  However, the Constitution of India allows an appeal against any judgment of any court, including the High Court. This is done through a unique form of a petition, known as the ‘Special Leave Petition’.

What are the offences and punishments under this law ?

The punishment for civil and criminal contempt is the same. When one is held guilty of contempt, they have the option to apologize to the court and save themselves from any other punishments. However, such an apology should be genuine and not merely a ruse to save oneself from punishment.