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Media And Courts: Contempt Of Court Act

The Media freedom is curtailed when it tends to insult the state under Sedition which is a crime under I.P.C., if it results in loss of reputation of an individual i.e., defamation, and when it creates contempt of judiciary i.e., the contempt of court. Thus the Constitution imposes a valid ground for imposing reasonable restrictions on the fundamental rights of citizen under 19(2) which includes Contempt of Court among other things.

Among the varied classes of contemners the editors, publishers and printers of newspapers frequently fall foul of the law. The press has no privilege, whatsoever, to criticize any person in any manner without making itself accountable to the law.

Its simple literal meaning is disgrace, scorn or disobedience. Whereas in law it means an offence against the dignity of a court or legislative body. The purpose of the contempt proceedings is to safeguard the dignity of the court and the administration of justice. It is quasi criminal in nature. It can also be said to be partly civil, where the object is to force the condemner to do something for benefit of the other party, and partly criminal by way of punishment for a wrong to the public at large as the contemnor interfered with the majesty of the court.

Kinds of Contempt:

There are many kinds of contempt's. The chief forms of contempt are insults to judges, attacks upon them, comment on pending proceedings with a tendency to prejudice fair trial, obstruction to officers of courts, witnesses or the parties, abusing the process of the Court, breach of duty by officers connected with the Court and scandalizing the judges or the Courts.

The lost from occur, generally speaking, when the conduct of a person tends to bring the authority and administration of the law into disrespect or disrepute. In this conduct are included all acts which brings the court into disrepute or disrespect or which offend its dignity, affront its majesty or challenge its authority. Such contempt may be committed in respect of a single judge or a single court but may, in certain circumstances, be committed in respect of the whole of the judiciary or judicial system.
Section 2(a) of Contempt of Court Act 1971 deals with civil contempt and criminal contempt. Section 2(b):'Civil Contempt' means willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, order or other process of a Court of willful breach of an undertaking given to a Court.

Civil contempt consists of disobeying the orders and criminal contempt is obstructing the administration of justice. There is some degree of overlap between these two kinds of contempt.

Section 2(c):

Criminal Contempt means the publication (whether by words, spoken or written by signs or by visible representations or otherwise of any matter or the doing or any other act whatsoever which may: Scandalizes or tends to scandalize or tends to lower authority of any court; or Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceedings; or Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct the administration of justice in any other manner.

Criminal contempt is again of three kinds:

  1. Contempt in the face of court, i.e., directly interfering with court proceedings;
  2. Contempt in relation to specific, imminent or pending proceedings by doing something which interferes with the due administration of justice;
  3. Contempt by scandalizing the judges.

The press and contempt of court:

As the press generally involves in reporting, writing, criticizing, analyzing the activity of every system including the judiciary, it is necessary to deal with the contempt regarding the press publications. The freedom of the journalist is an ordinary party of the freedom of the subject and to whatever lengths the subject in general may go, so also may the journalist, but apart from the statute law, his privilege is not other and no higher.

The responsibilities which attach to his power in dissemination of the printed matter make him more careful But the range of his assertions, his criticism or his comments, is as wide as, and no wider than that of any other subject. No privilege attaches to his position.

Scandalizing the court, commenting on the proceedings of a pending criminal case reflecting on the judge, the parties, their witnesses, or writings affecting the proceedings of a pending case which has a tendency to prejudice the public, criticism of the conduct of a judge are some of the publications which amount to contempt. In cases of speeches, sermons or photographs also these principles are applicable.

Here are some of the examples:
  1. Imputing dishonesty to a judge by stating that he controlled the hearing and manipulating in getting erroneous Judgement from another judge of the same Bench: C.K.Daphtary Vs. P.Gupta AIR 1971 SC 1132: ( 1971 ) 1 SCC 626.
  2. Publishing scandalous matter respecting the court after adjudication calculated to lower the authority of the court and sense of confidence of the people in the administration of justice: B.K.Lala v R.C.Dutt AIR 1967 Cal 153: 1967 Cr LJ 350.
  3. Allegation that 'justice is sold' or 'justice is auctioned' Umed v. Bahadur Singh 1981 Cr LJ NOC 85 (Raj).
  4. To say that a judge is a prejudiced judge: B.K.Lala v R.C.Dutt AIR 1967 Cal 153: 1967 Cr LJ 350.
  5. Reply to a show-cause notice stating that the respondent's experience of court affairs in India is worse and that instead of finding his fault, the court should try to find whether it adopted an 'abnormal' course of justice: State v Ram Dass AIR 1969 Cr LJ 1380.
  6. Notice Imputing malice, partially and dishonesty to the judge: Rachapudi v Advocate General AIR 1981 S 755: (1981)2 SSC 577: 1981 Cr Lj 315.
  7. An attack on a judge ascribing to him favouritism in his judicial or official capacity: Mohd.Vamin v Om Prakash 1982 Cr LJ 322 (Raj).
  8. Newspaper article proceeding inter alla to attribute improper motives to the judges, having a clear tendency to affect the prestige and dignity of the court: Aswini Kumar Ghosh v Arabinda Bose AIR 1953 SC 75: 1953 Cr LJ 519.
  9. Allegation that a particular judge gives judgements or orders always in favour of the clients of a particular advocate: State v Naranbhal 1982 Cr LJ 1982 (Guj).
  10. Aspersions against magistrate in transfer application about conspiracy to implicate the accused in a false case of theft and acceptance of bribe by him: State v Ravishankar AIR 1959 SC 102: 1959 lj 251.
  11. Unwarranted and defamatory allegations touching the character and ability of the judge in an application for transfer of a civil proceeding: State v Chandrakant 1985 Cr LJ 1716 (MP) (DB): (1985)2 Crimes 208.
  12. Allegations against judge in transfer application which are scandalous, scurrilous and made with determined effort to lower the authority of the court: Court v Ajit 1986 Cr LJ 590 (Punj).
  13. Scandalous allegations against Supreme Court judges in affidavit without any basis: Amrik Singh V State (1971) 3 SCC 215.
  14. Charging the judiciary as 'an instrument of oppression' and the judges as 'guided by class hatred, class interests and class prejudices, instinctively favouring the rich and against the poor', since it was clearly an attack upon judges calculated to raise a sense of disrespect and distruct of all judicial decisions, weakening thereby the authority of law and law courts: E.M.S. Namboodripad V T.Narayanan Nambiar AIR 1970 SC 2015

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