THE Supreme Court’s resolution holding activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan responsible of contempt of courtroom for his ‘scandalous’ tweets has once more highlighted the issue of the contempt legislation’s incompatibility — precise or perceived — with a democratic society wherein each establishment and people manning public places of work have to be subjected to public criticism. Coming on the eve of Independence Day, it was tough to understand the decision. There can’t be any quarrel with the ability of the contempt legislation per se because it’s geared toward sustaining public confidence within the judiciary in order to safeguard the widespread man’s pursuits, which might be adversely affected if the courtroom’s authority is undermined. But the provisions of the contempt legislation and the way wherein the jurisdiction is exercised by courts have immense scope for enchancment. The definition of legal contempt underneath Section 2(c)(i) of the Contempt of Courts Act is obscure and expansive, making it an offence to publish something — in any method in anyway — which ‘scandalises or tends to scandalise or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court.’ The expression ‘tends to’ can doubtlessly carry something inside the ambit of legal contempt. No marvel the UK did away with this type of contempt of courtroom in 2013.
It’s one of many uncommon class of instances wherein rules of pure justice don’t apply. Judges hear instances regardless of being aggrieved individuals — both individually or as members of the establishment. There isn’t any seen software to rule out doable bias, besides their very own sense of equity, justice and good conscience. It requires larger self-restraint; except there may be direct interference with the due course of judicial proceedings or obstruction within the administration of justice, courts ought to keep away from invoking contempt jurisdiction.
While upholding the legislation in letter, the courtroom seems to have missed its spirit. It may have adopted the House of Lords, which within the Spycatcher case spared Daily Mirror that had revealed an upside-down image of three legislation lords with the caption, ‘You Old Fools’, saying whether or not one was a idiot or not was a matter of notion. Showing magnanimity would have enhanced the courtroom’s credibility. Barring a couple of exceptions, courts in India have zealously protected particular person freedom from legislative and government excesses. They must be circumspect whereas utilizing the contempt legislation in order that it doesn’t have a chilling impact on free speech.