Usually, the Government (states or Central) comply with the orders of the High Courts or the Supreme Court.

I'm having trouble finding answers for a very simple question - What are the consequences of governmental non-compliance with such court orders?

  • 3
    Firstly, given that you've already accepted whoisit's answer, can you clarify what "other answers or improvements to existing answer" you're looking for? In what way is whoisit's answer incomplete?
    – F1Krazy
    Nov 22, 2022 at 16:13

1 Answer 1


India is a "Union of States". "Government" in India consists of two tiers: State and the Union (also called the Central Government).

If a state government does not follow court orders, contempt of the court case can be filed, for example: here. That means, the court now has powers to direct central agencies, who are outside the jurisdiction of the state government, to conduct investigation into the matter and arrest state government officials. As per the constitution, the central government can then use this as a basis to impose President's rule in the state, leading to fresh elections.

However, if the centre is unwilling to carry out action against the state, or when it is the central government that is responsible for non-compliance - the courts are effectively powerless - since all law enforcement agencies are controlled by some part of the government. This has been highlighted by the courts many times, even by the Chief Justice of India. Recent examples are:

  • Allowing the Executive to act in violation of court orders will be “an invitation to anarchy”, the Supreme Court held [Dec 9, 2020]
  • Executive’s tendency to ignore court orders [ is ] a worry [CJI of India, Dec 2021]
  • Governments ignoring court orders, says CJI [April 2022]

While most of the non-compliance happens in trivial cases, in non-trivial ones, it could potentially lead to constitutional crisis. Since the Parliament is effectively all-powerful, they could do anything - from making a law that essentially renders the court judgement invalid, to impeaching the judges or application of a National Emergency.

However it is in interest of democracy that the real power lies with an "elected" government, not a bureaucratic institution like the courts.

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    This problem of course is not unique to India. In the US there is the famous but probably apocryphal quotation "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it". While Andrew Jackson may never have uttered those words, it's true that he wrote a letter that included the statement "the decision of the Supreme Court has fell still born, and they find that they cannot coerce Georgia to yield to its mandate."
    – phoog
    Nov 15, 2022 at 12:36
  • @phoog But, in the U.S., the federal courts can direct U.S. Marshals, even though they are part of the U.S. Justice Department that reports to the President, to arrest government officials who have been held in contempt of court, and at the state level, a county sheriff or state patrol officer can likewise be ordered by a court to arrest a state or local official that has been held in contempt of court, notwithstanding the usual chain of command. It isn't common for this to be done, but it has happened.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 1, 2022 at 0:58

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