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

Last updated on Apr 8, 2022

Yes, a person punished for the offence of contempt of court (both civil and criminal contempt) has the right to appeal in the following ways:

Punishment Passed By? Who can you appeal to? Time Limit
Single Bench of the High Court  Bench of 2 or more Judges of the same High Court 30 days1 
Bench of more than one Judge of the High Court Supreme Court 60 days.(( Section 19(4)(b), Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.))
Judicial Commissioner of a Union Territory Supreme Court 60 days.(( Section 19(4)(b), Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.)) 

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’.((  Article 136, Constitution of India, 1950.))  The Supreme Court has the option to decide whether or not to hear an appeal arising out of the Special Leave Petition.(( Article 136, Constitution of India, 1950.)) 

  1. Section 19(4)(a),  Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. []

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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.

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.

How do you file a complaint for contempt?

The procedure to file a contempt petition depends upon the rules of the respective High Courts and the Supreme Courts.