Consent for Contempt of Court | UPSC


Explained: Consent for Contempt

      WHY IN NEWS:

What is the law on contempt of courts, and why is the consent of the Attorney General required to initiate contempt proceedings?

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : Attorney General


For PRELIMS just revise polity Laxmikant : Attorney General once ! This article will give you reasonable understanding on process of the contempt of court . Note down the need and role of AG’s consent in contempt of court.

For MAINS go through Suo Motu , Article 129 of Indian constitution mentioned below . You should be able to define it in your own words after reading this . Let us dive in !


Attorney General KK Venugopal has granted consent to initiate contempt of court proceedings against comic artist Rachita Taneja at the request of a law student.

  • The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, lays down the law on contempt of court.

Section 15 of the legislation describes the procedure on how a case for contempt of court can be initiated. 

  • Attorney General for India granted consent to initiate criminal contempt of court proceedings against comic illustrator Rachita Taneja.
  • Rachita Taneja for allegedly scandalising the judiciary through her tweets and illustrations.


  • The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, lays down the law on contempt of court.
  • Section 15 of the legislation describes the procedure on how a case for contempt of court can be initiated.

In the case of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General or the Solicitor General, and in the case of High Courts, the Advocate General, may bring in a motion before the court for initiating a case of criminal contempt.

  • However, if the motion is brought by any other person, the consent in writing of the Attorney General or the Advocate General is required.
  • The motion or reference made for initiating the case will have to specify the contempt of which the person charged is alleged to be guilty.

Consent for Contempt of Court | UPSC

Consent for Contempt of Court | UPSC

  • The publication of material that scandalises or lowers the dignity of the court or prejudices or interferes with the proceedings of the court, the consent of the Attorney General is required under the law.

The objective behind requiring the consent of the Attorney General before taking cognizance of a complaint is to save the time of the court.

  • Judicial time is squandered if frivolous petitions are made and the court is the first forum for bringing them in.
  • The AG’s consent is meant to be a safeguard against frivolous petitions,.

As it is deemed that the AG, as an officer of the court, will independently ascertain whether the complaint is indeed valid.

The AG’s consent is mandatory when a private citizen wants to initiate a case of contempt of court against a person.

  • Before such a plea can be filed, the Attorney General must sign off on the complaint, determining if it requires the attention of the court at all.

When the court itself initiates a contempt of court case, as it did in the case of Prashant Bhushan recently, the AG’s consent is not required.

  • This is because the court is exercising its inherent powers under the Constitution to punish for contempt.
  • Such Constitutional powers cannot be restricted because the AG declined to grant consent.
  • The three-judge Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra reiterated this position in the Prashant Bhushan case.


  • As far as the suo motu petitions are concerned, there is no requirement for taking consent of anybody.
  • This is including the learned Attorney General because the Court is exercising its inherent powers to issue a notice for contempt.

It is equally well settled, that once the Court takes cognizance, the matter is purely between the Court and the contemnor. 

  • The only requirement is that the procedure followed is required to be just and fair and in accordance with the principles of natural justice.

AG Venugopal had repeatedly objected to the court’s initiation of contempt proceedings against Bhushan during the course of the hearing.

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  • If the AG denies consent, the matter all but ends.

AG Venugopal had refused to grant consent to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against actor Swara Bhasker for allegedly making derogatory comments against the Supreme Court.

The law has a limitation period of one year for bringing in action against an individual.

  • The complainant can, however, separately bring the issue to the notice of the court and urge the court to take suo motu (on its own motion) cognizance.

Article 129 of the Constitution gives the Supreme Court the power to initiate contempt cases on its own, independent of the motion brought before it by the AG or with the consent of the AG

  • 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 of itself.-Article 129

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

  • Once the consent of the Attorney General is given in writing, a notice under The Contempt of Courts Act is served personally on the person.
  • If the court decides not to serve the notice personally, the law requires the court to record the reasons for it.

If the court is satisfied that the alleged contemnor is likely to abscond or evade judicial proceedings, it can order attachment of property of a value that it deems reasonable. 

  • Once the notice is served, the alleged contemnor may file an affidavit in support of his defence, explaining the nature and circumstances of her remarks.
  • The case is required under the Act to be heard by a Bench of at least two judges.
  • The court then takes into account any evidence available to check the affidavit, and pass appropriate orders.

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