Contempt of court – 2

In part one we understood the meaning as well as types of the contempt of court now it becomes important to understand about other concept that will help us in understanding the contempt of court in more detail.

Exceptions to contempt of court

It is important to understand that in 2006 The Contempt of Courts Act 1971 was amended and it included the defence of truth under section 13 of the original legislation. It Implies that the court must permit justification by truth as a valid defence if it is satisfied that it was made in interest of the public. Further innocent publication and distribution of matters that are fair and reasonable in criticism of judicial acts and comment on the administrative side of the judiciary do not amount to contempt of court.


The punishment for contempt of court is given under section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. The act provides for that simple imprisonment for a term up to six months or with fine up to Rs. 2,000 or both. However the section also provides that an accused may be discharged or his punishment may be remitted on the condition that he makes an apology and that this apology must satisfy the court, and only then he may be exempted from the punishment awarded to him for the contempt of court. There is also an explanation regarding this in the act that says that if the accused makes a bona fide apology then it shall not be rejected simply because it is qualified or conditional.The court in Pushpaben & Anr vs Narandas V. Badiani & Anr 1979 AIR 1536, 1979 SCR (3) 636 stated that a fine alone should be imposed in normal circumstances. Although the court has power to pass a sentence of imprisonment if it thought that ends of justice required so. Therefore, before a court passes a sentence of imprisonment it must give special reasons for passing such a sentence. In simple words, imprisonment should only be imposed only if it is absolutely necessary in the interests of justice.

Period of Limitation

Section 20 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 deals with the period of limitation regarding beginning of contempt proceedings. It provides that no court can initiate contempt proceedings after the expiry of one year from the date on which contempt is alleged to have been committed. The period of limitation is applicable in civil as well as criminal contempt.

Civil contempt is no doubt required because wilfully disobedient litigants who ignore court orders cannot be let off the hook otherwise, the administration of justice and public trust in the judiciary will definitely suffer. However the validity of criminal contempt still remains questionable. We need to understand that freedom of speech and expression, as well as the right to personal liberty, are important but so is public trust in the country’s judicial system.

Aishwarya Says:

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