Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Contempt of Court and A-G’s consent


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Contempt of Court and its types, AGI

Mains level: Free speech vs. Contempt of court

Attorney-General gave his consent for the initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against the stand-up comedian for his tweets following a Supreme Court’s decision to grant interim bail to a news anchor.

Note important power, functions and limitations of AGI. A bluff can be created with the dicey statements in the prelims.

Also read:

[Burning Issue] Free Speech Vs. Contempt of Court

What is Contempt of Court?

  • According to the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, contempt of court can either be civil contempt or criminal contempt.
  • Civil contempt means wilful disobedience of any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or another process of a court, or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
  • Criminal contempt, on the other hand, is attracted by the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:

(i) Scandalizes or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court; or

(ii) Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding; or

(iii) Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner

  • In 2006, the government brought in an amendment, which now provides “truth” as defence provided it is bona fide and in the public interest.

Why is the A-G’s consent needed to initiate contempt proceedings?

  • In cognizance of criminal contempt, The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 has a provision under Subsection 1 of Section 15.
  • It reads that- in the case of criminal contempt, (other than contempt in the face of the Supreme Court or a High Court), the related court may take action on its own motion or on a motion made by (a) the Advocate-General, or (b) any other person, with the consent in writing of the Advocate-General.

Back2Basics: Attorney General of India (AGI)

  • The AGI is the Indian government’s chief legal advisor and is a primary lawyer in the Supreme Court of India.
  • They can be said to be the advocate from the government’s side.
  • They are appointed by the President of India on the advice of Union Cabinet under Article 76(1) of the Constitution and holds office during the pleasure of the President.
  • They must be a person qualified to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court ( i.e. a judge of some high court for five years or an advocate of some high court for ten years or an eminent jurist, in the opinion of the President and must be a citizen of India.).

Functions and duties

  • The AGI is necessary for advising the Government of India on legal matters referred to them.
  • They also perform other legal duties assigned to them by the President.
  • The AGI has the right of audience in all Courts in India as well as the right to participate in the proceedings of the Parliament, though not to vote.
  • The AGI appears on behalf of Government of India in all cases (including suits, appeals and other proceedings) in the Supreme Court in which GoI is concerned.
  • They also represent the Government of India in any reference made by the President to the Supreme Court under Article 143 of the Constitution.
  • The AG is assisted by a Solicitor General and four Additional Solicitors General.

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