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Focus: GS-II Polity, Governance

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court said the prior consent of the Attorney General (AG) of India is not required to suo motu initiate the inherent contempt powers of the Supreme Court.
  • A three-judge Bench held that the suo motu contempt powers of the top court is drawn from Article 129 of the Constitution, which says the Supreme Court, as a court of record, has the power to punish for contempt of itself.
  • The court explained this in its judgment in a suo motu contempt case against advocate Prashant Bhushan for his tweets.


  • The Contempt of Court Act of 1971 cannot limit this power of the court.
  • The statute only provides the procedure in which such contempt is to be initiated.
  • As far as the suo motu petitions are concerned, there is no requirement for taking consent of anybody, including the Attorney General because the court is exercising its inherent powers to issue notice for contempt.
  • It is equally well settled, that once the court takes cognisance, the matter is purely between the court and the contemnor.
  • It said the only requirement is that the procedure followed is required to be just and fair and in accordance with the principles of natural justice.

Indian Constitution: Regarding Contempt of court

  • Article 129 and 215 of the Constitution of India empowers the Supreme Court and High Court respectively to punish people for their respective contempt.
  • The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 defines the power of the High Court to punish contempts of its subordinate courts.
  • Power to punish for contempt of court under Articles 129 and 215 is not subject to Article 19(1)(a).

According to Lord Hardwick, there is a three-fold classification of Contempt:

  1. Scandalizing the court itself.
  2. Abusing parties who are concerned in the cause, in the presence of court.
  3. Prejudicing the public before the cause is heard.

However, in India contempt of court is of two types:

  1. Civil Contempt: Under the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, civil contempt has been defined 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.
  2. Criminal Contempt: Under the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, criminal contempt has been defined as the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:
  3. Scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court, or
  4. Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding, or
  5. Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

-Source: The Hindu

November 2023