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Section 12 – The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971



12. Punishment for contempt of court –


(1) Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act or in any other law, a contempt of court may be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees, or with both.


Provided that the accused may be discharged or the punishment awarded may be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court.


Explanation – An apology shall not be rejected merely on the ground that it is qualified or conditional if the accused makes it bona fide.


(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, no court shall impose a sentence in excess of that specified in sub section for any contempt either in respect of itself or of a court subordinate to it.


(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, where a person is found guilty of a civil contempt, the court, if it considers that a fine will not meet the ends of justice and that a sentence of imprisonment is necessary shall, instead of sentencing him to simple imprisonment, direct that the he be detained in a civil prison for such period not exceeding six months as it may think fit.


(4) Where the person found guilty of contempt of court in respect of any undertaking given to a court is a company, every person who, at the time the contempt was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to, the company for the conduct of business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the contempt and the punishment may be enforced, with the leave of the court, by the detention in civil prison of each such person.


Provided that nothing contained in this sub section shall render any such person liable to such punishment if he proves that the contempt was committed without his knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent its commission.


(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub section (4) where the contempt of court referred to therein has been committed by a company and it is provided that the contempt has been committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manger, secretary or other officer of the company, such director, manager , secretary or other officer shall also be deemed to be guilty of the be contempt and the punishment may be enforced, with the leave of the court, by the detention in civil prison of such director, manager, secretary or other officer.


Explanation – For the purpose of sub sections (4) and (5)-


(a) “Company ” means any body corporate and includes a firm or other association of individuals, and


(b) “Director” in relation to a firm, means a partner in the firm.




(i) Court dealing with application for contempt of court cannot traverse beyond the order. It cannot test correctness or otherwise of the order or give additional direction or delete any direction. That would be exercising review jurisdiction with an application for initiation of contempt proceedings. The same would be impermissible and indefensible; Prithavi Nath Ram v. State of Jharkhand, AIR 2004 SC 4277A.


(ii) The various different modes of execution of orders and decrees, as recognised by law, cannot be resorted to by the Court in a contempt proceeding; Bonbehari Roy v. Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority, AIR 2004 Cal 254B.


(iii) The common English phrase “he who asserts must prove” has its due application in the matter of proof of the allegations said to be constituting the act of contempt. As regards the standard of proof, be it noted that a proceeding under the extraordinary jurisdiction of the court in terms of the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act is quasi judicial, and as such, the standard of proof required is that of a criminal proceeding and the breach shall have to be established beyond reasonable doubt; Mrityunjoy Das v. Sayed Hasibur Rahaman, AIR 2001 SC 1293.


(iv) The power of the Supreme Court to punish for contempt of court, though quite wide, is yet limited and cannot be expanded to include the power to determine whether an advocate is also guilty of “professional misconduct” in a summary manner; Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India, AIR 1998 SC 1895.


(v) Breach of an injunction, or breach of an undertaking given to a court by a person in a civil proceeding amounts to contempt; Noorali Babul Thanewala v. K.M.M. Shetty, AIR 1990 SC 564.


(vi) Committing the contemner to prison is always discretionary with the court; Shakuntala Sahadevram Tiwari v. Hemchand M. Singhania, (1990) 3 Bom CR 82 (Bom).


(vii) The court can, even when accepts the apology, commit an offender to prison or otherwise punish him; Rupert J. Bamabas v. N. Bharani, 1990 LW (Crl) 27 (Mad).


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The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971


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