N Ram, Shourie problem contempt provision in Supreme Court

New Delhi, August 1

Former Union minister Arun Shourie, veteran journalist N Ram and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan have moved the Supreme Court difficult the constitutional validity of “criminal contempt”, contending it has a “chilling effect” on free speech.

They have challenged Section 2(c)(i) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, that defines “criminal contempt” as publication of something — whether or not by phrases, spoken or written, or by indicators, or by seen illustration, or in any other case of any matter or the doing of every other act in any way — which scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers the authority of any court docket.

Section 2(c)(I) was a manifestly arbitrary and obscure provision of regulation that violated proper to equality and proper to free speech assured underneath the Constitution, they contended within the petition filed on Friday. “The broad and ambiguous wording of the impugned sub-section violates Article 14 by leaving the offence open to differing and inconsistent applications. This uncertainty in the manner in which the law applies renders it manifestly arbitrary and violates the right to equal treatment,” they submitted.

The trio argued that “it is incompatible with preambular values and basic features of the Constitution as it violates Article 19(1)(a).” 

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