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What is Contempt of Courts Act of 1971?

The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 is an Act of the Indian Parliament to define and limit the powers of courts in punishing contempts of courts and to regulate their procedure in this regard.
Aug 6, 2020 15:49 IST
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Contempt of Courts Act, 1971
Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 is an Act of the Indian Parliament to define and limit the powers of courts in punishing contempts of courts and to regulate their procedure in this regard. The Act is not applicable to the state of Jammu and Kashmir except the contempt of Supreme Court. 

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What is Contempt of Court? 

Contempt of Court is the offence of being disobedient or disrespectful towards a court of law in the form of behaviour, opposing the authority, justice and dignity of the court. 

Categories of Contempt of Court

Contempt of court may be divided into two broad categories: 

1- Civil Contempt: This means wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other processes of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court. 

2- Criminal Contempt: This means the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever
which—
(i) scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any
court; or
(ii) prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial
proceeding; or
(iii) interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of
justice in any other manner.

What are the exceptions of Contempt of Court?

1- A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court if he has published (whether by words, spoken or written, or by
signs, or by visible representations, or otherwise) which tends to interfere or obstruct, or tends to interfere or obstruct the course of justice related to any civil or criminal proceeding pending at the time of publication, provided that he has no reasonable grounds to believe that the proceeding was pending. 

2- A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court if he publishes anything opposite to this Act or any law for the time being in force, provided that the published material is in compliance with subsection (1) and any criminal or civil proceeding related to it is not pending in the court at the time of publication. 

3- A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court even if he has distributed a publication containing any such matter mentioned in sub-section (1), provided that at the time of distribution of such material he had no reasonable grounds for believing that it may have anything contrary as mentioned above. However, this subsection shall not apply with respect to the distribution of: 
(i) any publication which is a book or paper printed or published otherwise than in compliance with the rules contained in section 3 of the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 (25 of 1867);
(ii) any publication which is a newspaper published otherwise than in compliance with the rules contained in section 5 of the above-mentioned Act.

4- A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court if he publishes a fair and accurate report of a judicial proceeding. 

5- A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court if he publishes a fair criticism on the merits of any case which has been heard and a judgement has been passed. 

6- A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court if he lodges a complaint or releases a statement in good faith, against the t presiding officers of subordinate courts to either any other subordinate court or the High Court to which it is subordinate. 

7- A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court if he publishes a fair and accurate report of an ongoing judicial proceeding before any court sitting in chambers or in camera except for the following: 
(i) where the publication is in contrary to the p provisions of any enactment for the time being in force,
(ii) where the court has prohibited the publication of all the information related to the proceeding or of the information published,
(iii)  where the court sits in chambers or in camera for reasons connected with public order or the
security of the State, the publication of information relating to those proceedings;
(d) where the information relates to a secret process, discovery or invention which is an issue in proceedings. 

8- Any defence which would have been a valid defence in any proceeding for the contempt of court has ceased to be available merely by reason of the provisions of this Act.

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