Contempt and Administration: A Curious Case!

Contempt and Administration: A Curious Case!

(The Hindu)


  • Recently, the Telangana HC has awarded the sentence to Sircilla Collector D. Krishna Bhaskar, the then Joint Collector Yashmin Basha, and Land Acquisition Officer N. Srinivas Rao to simple imprisonment of 3 months and inflicted a fine of two thousand rupees in a contempt case. 
  • In addition to this, they are suspended for six weeks and an adverse entry will be noted in the service records for their willful defiance.

The Case:

  • The issue was that the lands were forcibly acquired and engulfed in the Antagiri reservoir and they were not paid compensation for the lands or rehabilitation and resettlement.
  • The gross violation of the directives by the court was considered contempt and the officials were punished.

History of Contempt:

  • The case of contempt of courts was first mentioned in common law, and can also be traced to colonial legislation.
  • The earliest recorded penalties can be found in the Regulating Act of 1773.
  • Courts established in India under colonial rule followed the common law guidelines that all ‘courts of record’ had the authority to punish for contempt. High Courts established in Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras as courts of record exercised the power of contempt to charge persons for mingling with the administration of justice.

Contempt in India:

In India, contempt is classified into two categories:

  • Civil contempt: As per section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 civil contempt is an act of willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ, or another process of a court or willful violation of an undertaking given to a court.
  • Criminal contempt: According to section 2(c) of The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, criminal contempt is an act of the publication by word, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise of any matter which:
  1. i) Scandalizes or tends to scandalize, lower the authority of, any court.
  2. ii) Prejudices and interfere with the judicial proceeding.

          iii) Interferes with the administration of justice in any manner.


  • Apology: The contemner may tender an apology to the court and the court may remit the punishment warranted.
  • Appeal: Contempt of court Act, 1971 has the provision for the right of appeal against the orders of the High Court passed in the exercise of its authority to punish for the contempt of the court.

However, in the case of a punishment order passed by a single judge, the right of appeal gets exhausted once the appeal is filed before the division bench and there is no more right for appealing under the Contempt of Court Act.

Cases of judgments on the issue:

  • In Sukhdev Singh vs. Teja Singh, the Supreme Court observed that if the judge has been personally attacked he should refer the matter to other judges and recuse himself.
  • In Hari Kishan vs. Narutham Das Shashtri, the SC held that the reason for barring a private person from filing criminal contempt is to prevent the courts from being overloaded with frivolous motions in order to satiate personal interests.
  • In the case of Biman Basu V A.G Thakurta, the SC held that any petition of criminal contempt filed by any private person without the consent of the Advocate General of India will not stand and will be dismissed on this ground itself. 

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