The complaint must be made within one year from the date on which the alleged contempt of court offence was committed.

How do you file a complaint for contempt?

Last updated on Apr 8, 2022

The procedure to file a contempt petition depends upon the rules of the respective High Courts and the Supreme Courts. According to the rules of the Supreme Court, a contempt petition should contain:

  • The name, description and place of residence of the complainant(s) and of the persons charged (with the alleged contempt).(( Rule 4(a)ii), Rules To Regulate Proceedings For Contempt Of Supreme Court, 1975.))
  • Nature of the contempt alleged, and facts, including the date or dates of commission of the alleged contempt.(( Rule 4(a)(ii), Rules To Regulate Proceedings For Contempt Of Supreme Court, 1975.))
  • If a petition has previously been made on the same facts, the complainant has to give the details of the petition previously made and also indicate the result of the case.(( Rule 4(a)(iii), Rules To Regulate Proceedings For Contempt Of Supreme Court, 1975.))

The petition has to be supported by an affidavit and any document (s) in possession of the complainant. The document should be either the original or a true copy.(( Rules 4 (b) & (c), Rules To Regulate Proceedings For Contempt Of Supreme Court, 1975.)) To understand who to file a complaint to, read the explainer on “Who can you complain to regarding a grievance under the law?” 

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What does the law say you can/cannot do?

While anything that lowers the authority of the courts can be considered as contempt, there are certain exceptions given in the law. These include innocent publication and distribution of matter, fair and accurate reporting of a judicial proceeding, fair criticism of judicial actions, complaint against presiding officers of subordinate courts and truth.

What is Contempt of Court?

Contempt of court is any action or writing, meant to lower the authority of a court or a Judge or to interfere with the course of justice or the lawful process of the court.

Where can contempt of court happen?

Contempt of court can happen anywhere - inside court, outside court, on social media. etc. Further, contempt proceedings can be taken up by either the Supreme Court, High Court, or Tribunals. However, the procedure to initiate proceedings will differ based on the place where the alleged contempt happens.

Who are the authorities under the law?

The Constitution of India, 1950 empowers the Supreme Court and High Courts to have the powers to punish for contempt.

Is there a right to appeal against a contempt of court decision?

The law only allows a person to appeal against the decision once. If the appeal fails, no further remedy is present under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.  However, the Constitution of India allows an appeal against any judgment of any court, including the High Court. This is done through a unique form of a petition, known as the ‘Special Leave Petition’.

What are the offences and punishments under this law ?

The punishment for civil and criminal contempt is the same. When one is held guilty of contempt, they have the option to apologize to the court and save themselves from any other punishments. However, such an apology should be genuine and not merely a ruse to save oneself from punishment.