Contempt Of Court Act: An Analysis


With knowledge, comes power to reason and to criticize the injustice. But at times, the reasoning capabilities can in turn lead to a country's way towards destruction through people's disbelief in the very popular and efficient working mechanism of the country. Court is a, one such organ of the country which can choke the country to death if it ever became corrupt or disorganised.

Hence, in order to keep it organised, efficient and productive and to control the not needed criticisms, the concept of 'Contempt of Courts Act' is much needed. Fortunately, India is one of the few legal systems where contempt of court is still prevalent and efficient. The circumstances are indeed happier inside our country as we all know that Judiciary would definitely assist the people in need, even if the other two organs of the Government give up to extend the hand of help.

So let's get deep down in order to research what exactly is contempt of court, how it originated and how well is the current statute functioning.


  • What was the origin and history of Contempt of Court Act?

  • How many Acts have been passed or amended in this regard?

  • What are the punishments given for the same?

  • What are the recent cases of Contempt of Court?


  • To study about the origin and history of contempt of court act.

  • To know about the Contempt of court Act passed in 1926, 1952 and 1971.

  • To analyse the Punishments given in this regard.

  • To examine the various cases on contempt of court in the recent years.


Although I have done this project with utmost sincerity and attention to detail, there are a few limitations present, without which this research could have been enhanced.

As the project employs secondary sources data, availability of proper data comes as a restraint of the study. This is also because of the ongoing pandemic of Covid-19 and its consequential imposed lockdowns.


Descriptive research was carried out through secondary data to analyze the Contempt of Court Act. A number of secondary data sources (including books, research papers and journals, news articles, etc.) were referred, in order to have the most accurate findings.


The concept of Contempt of Court is eight hundred years old through the common law doctrine, 'Contemptus Curiae'. It follows from the common law principle in England which States to protect the judicial and decision making power of the King. Later, the King appointed several judges who had exercised this right of decision making on behalf of the king. The King since was not in the process of decision making, many people went on openly to disobey the judgement passed and since the judges were appointed directly by the King, disobedience actually meant disobedience of Kings' orders. This overtime, became punishable to the people disobeying their verdict or directives. This was first mentioned in the laws of King Henry-1, where it was called 'Contempt of Kings' Court'. Therefore, by the end of the 12th century Contempt of Court was a valid form of punishment to people who went on to flagrantly disobey the orders of the Kings' appointed judges.

However, in the 17th century the Court of Chancery added those cases under the ambit of Contempt of Court, where people have denied performance of the judgement by common law courts. This development however, led the Common Law Courts to put up Criminal and Civil Contempt however, a clear difference between the two was not made either in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Initially, proceedings were initiated only against those cases where contempt was committed in the presence of the court, for an instance, in 1747, Thomas Martin who happened to be the 'Mayor of Great Yamouth' sent a bank note of £20 to Lord Hardwicke and Lord Chancellor however, when Lord Chancellor show-caused him, asking why contempt action should not be initiated against him, he sought pardon. However, owing to the dignity of his public office, Lord chancellor dropped actions against him. Another amusing instance in 1631, when a prisoner threw a brickbat at the Judge which barely missed him while he was brought before the court for trials. The Prisoner's right hand was ordered to be cut off and hanged in the gallows. These cases indicate how trials were conducted fairly and how the contempt of court originated through the very common principle of trial and error, which was followed by many common law countries in those days. However it was in 20th century (1906 to be precise) when Common Law Courts deliberated on having a defined statute on contempt of court and which matters should technically qualify itself to be called under the same. The Parliament came up with this in 1908 which was considered to be the first codified statute upon contempt of court. Many statutes were created and amended during the nineteenth and twentieth century (like in 1883, 1892, 1994 etc.) but flexibility and performance could be viewed only in the 1908 statute. It was indeed commendable on the part of the courts to keep trying and improving the provisions of The Contempt of Court and that's how an expert committee under the chairmanship of Lord Phillimore L.J. was appointed in 1971 if Administration of Justice Act of UK required any changes. The committee submitted its reviews and recommendations in 1974 which was accepted and binding by law in 1981.

In the late 1960s, one of the most deliberated contentions arose when the judges were forced to rethink if newspaper articles does, constitute a contempt of court. Thankfully, the recommendations given by the Lord Phillimore Committee suggested not to involve newspaper articles and journalists under the ambit of this act. Despite immediate attempt to rectify the anomalies, The European Court of Human Rights was of the view that UK's contempt law is not in compliance of the principles of free speech under Article 10 of the European Convention. (Sunday Times vs. V.K.) However, the court argued that in view of protecting such rights the UK Courts cannot allow disobedience to the judgement and breach of its order stating that these rights are already subjected to reasonable restrictions.

History & Origin of Contempt of Courts in India