IS SUPREME COURTS VERDICT AN ASSAULT ON FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT ?

Updated: Oct 3




What happened ? Recently contempt case was instituted against activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan.


Legal issue involved: Whether it is assault on fundamental freedom of speech ?


Facts to be noted : In his case, the lawyer made two tweets regarding the working of the Supreme Court and conduct of Chief Justice of India while the Nation was facing the lockdown. The Supreme Court has said that the tweets amount to serious contempt of the court.


Then ! The apex court held him guilty under the contempt proceedings and asked the lawyer to apologize and withdraw his tweets but he refused to so.


Reason : The reason why the court asked him to give apology was that proviso to Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 provides that accused can be discharged or if punishment has been awarded will be remitted if he apologizes to the court.


Contempt charges : The court held him guilty for contempt of court and imposed fine of Re. 1 and in held that in case of default of payment of fine, he will be awarded imprisonment of three months and will face expulsion from practice before courts for three years.


Freedom of speech v. contempt of court


Relevant legal provisions :

Article 19(1)(a) – Right to freedom of speech and expression

Article 19(2) – Reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech and expression

Contempt of Courts Act – especially section 5 – fair criticism on judicial acts

Freedom of speech and its restrictions: Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution of India provides that freedom of speech to every citizen of India, it means he can freely express his views but this right is subject to some reasonable restrictions like interest of the sovereignty, integrity and security of India, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement of offence.


What does contempt of court act says ? Constructive criticism is considered as an essential factor in the growth of democracy. In fact, section 5 of the Contempt of courts Act provides that fair criticism of judicial act does not amount to criticism. Thus, whether the tweets were within the within the purview of freedom to express one’s views or not is a moot point .


UPSC LAW OPTIONAL MAINS EXPECTED QUESTIONS FROM THE TOPIC CONCERNED

1. Constitution has given the Supreme Court and High Court the power of contempt and same constitution provides us the fundamental right to speech and expression , how this power is balance with right to speech and expression ? Explain with recent issues.

2. How power of courts punish for contempt co-exist with our right to speech ?

3. A writes “ Rama the high court judge rides other BMW making the institution of court a mock on justice” on social media – is A liable for contempt of court. Explain with recent issues.


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