The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971
20. Limitation for actions for contempt –
No court shall initiate any proceedings if contempt, either on its own motion or otherwise, after the expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed.
(i) In order to appreciate the exact connotation of the expression “initiate any proceedings of contempt” it is necessary to notice several situations or stages which may arise before the court dealing with contempt proceedings. These are—
(i) (a) a private party may file or present an application or petition for initiating any proceedings for civil contempt;
(b) the court may receive a motion or reference from the Advocate-General or with his consent in writing from any other person or a specified Law Officer or a court subordinate to High Court:
(ii) (a) the court may in routine issue notice to the person sought to be proceeded against, or
(b) the court may issue notice to the respondent calling upon him to show cause why the proceedings for contempt be not initiated;
(iii) the court may issue notice to the person sought to be proceeded against calling upon him to show cause why he be not punished for contempt.
In the cases contemplated by (i) or (ii) it cannot be said that any proceedings for contempt have been initiated. It is only when the court has found an opinion that a prima facie case for initiating proceedings for contempt is made out and that the respondents or the alleged contemners should be called upon to show cause why they should not be punished then the court can be said to have initiated proceedings for contempt; Om Prakash Jaiswal v. D.K. Mittal, AIR 2000 SC 1136.
(ii) Initiation of any proceedings for contempt is barred after the expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed; V.M. Kanade v. Madhao Gadkari, (1990) 1 Mah LR 544 (Bom).
(iii) No intervening event or order stops the running of time specified in this section; Golcha Advertising Agency v. State of Maharashtra, (1990) 2 Bom CR 262 (Bom).
(iv) Delay in initiating contempt proceedings cannot be condoned; T.M.A. Abdul Hamed v. S. Radhakrishnan, 1989 LW (Cri) 237.