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Contempt of Court: The Court and the Law

Updated: Jan 18

IN RE: Prashant Bhushan & Anr, Suo Moto Contempt Petition (CRL.) No.1 of 2020

The Supreme Court, in its recent judgment on Prashant Bhushan's Case, has said that there is no requirement in taking consent of the Attorney General, in Suo Motu Contempt proceedings. The Supreme Court had also said that that it has constitutional power for itself, to initiate the criminal contempt proceedings on the suo motu basis, and the issuance of the notice for contempt is not necessary from the part of the Attorney General.

What is suo motu Criminal Contempt?

Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Court's Act, 1971, defined Criminal contempt as "the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which-

  1. Scandalizes or tends to scandalize, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court, or

  2. Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding, or

  3. Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner."

Section 15 of the Contempt of Court Act deals with the methods which deal with the Criminal Contempt proceedings. Under this Section, there are Three types of initiating criminal proceedings;

  1. Suo Motu,

  2. On the Motion by the Advocate General/Attorney General/ Solicit General,

  3. Based on the petition filed by any person, with the consent of writing of the Advocate General/ Attorney General/ Solicitor General.

Judgment Analysis

In Prashant Bhushan's case, which is nicknamed as the 'Suo Motu Criminal Contempt Case, the petition was filed by a person, against the tweet made by the social Activist, and prominent lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, and the court subsequently took the Suo Motu based on two tweets made by him. On August, 14 The Supreme Court held Mr Prashant Bhushan, guilty of Criminal Contempt of Court.

The Supreme Court also referred to the Re Vijay Kurle's case by stating that Section 15 cannot, in Anyways limit the power given to the court under Article 129 of the Indian Constitution. Article 129 states 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 the contempt of court itself.

Contrary to the contention made by a Senior Advocate stating that the proceedings against Prashant Bhushan cannot be treated as a Suo Motu Contempt petition, it was held By the Supreme Court that the notice issued to Bhushan and twitter mentions the tweets on basis of which the Suo Motu proceedings were initiated.


The Judgment was concluded by the Supreme Court by reiterating the importance of the Supreme Court in protecting the Fundamental Rights of the Citizens as well as the 4 pillars of the democracy. If an attack is made to the judiciary in such a manner to shackle the confidence of the public, it is the responsibility of the judiciary itself to deal with the strict actions. when there appears some scheme and design to bring about the results which tend damaging the confidence in our judicial system and demoralize the judges of the highest courts by making malicious attacks, and those interested in maintaining high standards of fearless, impartial and unbending justice will have to stand firm. the Supreme Court, in this case, stressed upon the fearless and impartial courts of justice is the backbone of the healthy democracy, and any activity which gets impaired by malicious attacks should be condemned


Swathi. Ashok. Nair is currently pursuing law at School of Legal Studies, Cochin University of Science and Technology

They can be contacted at swathiashoknair555@gmail.com/


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