Law can’t take away court’s power to punish for contempt

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Law can’t take away court’s power to punish for contempt

  • Parliament can’t take away the power of the Supreme Court to punish for contempt, the top court ruled
  • The court stressed that the authority is bestowed by the Constitution itself, and therefore no law can be enacted to mitigate or nullify it.
  • The court observed that the 'raison d'etre' of contempt jurisdiction is to maintain the dignity of the institution of judicial forums.


  • Article 142 (2) states that “subject to the provisions of any law made in this behalf by Parliament” the Supreme Court shall have all and every power to make any order on punishment of any contempt of itself.
  • However, Article 129 lays down that the Supreme Court shall be a court of record, and shall have all the powers of such a court, including the power to punish for contempt.
  • The comparison of the two provisions show that whereas the founding fathers felt that the powers under clause (2) of Article 142 could be subject to any law made by the Parliament, there is no such restriction as far as Article 129 is concerned.

Contempt of court

  • Constitution does not define the expression “contempt of court”.
  • As per the Contempt of Courts Act 1971, “contempt” can be defined as an offence of showing disrespect to the dignity or authority of a court.
  • The Act divides contempt into civil and criminal contempt.
  • Civil contempt refers to the wilful disobedience of an order of any court.
  • Criminal contempt includes any act or publication which: scandalises the court, prejudices any judicial proceeding or interferes with the administration of justice in any other manner.