Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Criminal defamation law: As MJ Akbar files case against Priya Ramani, it's time to re-examine this instrument




This article was originally printed on thirty August, 2016 once the Supreme Court of Asian country upheld the validity of the criminal defamation law. it's being republished in light-weight of MJ Akbar filing criminal defamation charges against Priya Ramani once allegations of harassment were levelled agaisnt him.

In might this year, following the Supreme Court judgment that upheld the validity of the criminal defamation law, Pratap Bhanu Mehta mirrored on ‘the paradoxes of the present court regime’ that “seems reluctant to intervene in cases that impinge upon basic rights however rushes headlong into policy matters that ought to be none of its business”.

The contradiction in terms doesn't finish here.

The court that upheld the constitutional validity of sections 499 and five hundred of the Indian legal code (IPC), providing for criminal defamation, felt that the law has no ‘chilling effect’ on free speech. In its judgment, the apex court ascertained, "the right to free speech isn't absolute. It doesn't mean freedom to harm another's name that is protected beneath Article twenty one of the Constitution."

The judgment attracted sharp criticism from completely different quarters. And now, 3 months later, the Supreme Court in one more judgment has diluted the sharpness of its earlier judgment.

On twenty four August, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra – whereas hearing a petition filed by DMDK chief Vijayakanth seeking dismissal of a defamation case filed against him by the regime – told the state Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa that as a public leader, she should learn to face criticism.


As reported  by The Hindu, Justice Misra orally ascertained, “This isn't the manner... this can be not the sign of a healthy democracy. This shows the State’s management over the sanctionative authority and prosecutor’s workplace in filing defamation cases against opponents, media and political rivals.”

The bench conjointly additional, “If someone criticises the policy of the govt, if the person criticised could be a important person, he needs to face it rather than mistreatment the state machinery to choke criticism.”

By the twenty four August order, the apex court to some extent ransomed the explanation for free speech, apparently lost to the thirteen might judgment, once it upheld the constitutional validity of the criminal defamation.

But the contradiction in terms still thrives. whereas the gravity of the defamation law was subdued by one stroke, the law of contempt that deters even ‘constructive criticism’ and light of real cases of judicial corruption, still remains unchecked.

Indira Jaising, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court, reflective upon this issue aforementioned, "The judges ar the maximum amount a important person as anyone else. whereas permitting uncorroborated criticism of a choose or casting aspersions on a judges’ motive isn't accepted, there's a number of body problems that may be open for public scrutiny and criticism. And one amongst them is that the appointment of the judges. I comply with the proposition that folks publically life and their conduct and activities ought to be hospitable criticism."

She adds,"If the court isn't clear in its functioning there'll be criticisms.

There is the real criticism of the manner the court’s perform on the executive facet and it shouldn't invite contempt. Also, criticism of judgment too shouldn't invite contempt

On being asked however the concern of contempt deters the media from light even the real cases of corruption – a proven fact that is even acknowledged by constitutional skilled Fali S Nariman in his book The State of the state – Jaising aforementioned, “See you can't build allegation of corruption unless you've got credible ground for it. however affirmative it's true that concern of contempt could be a massive hindrance in referring the cases of corruption within the judiciary. I feel it's not employment of the member of the general public to produce proof. Our job is to convey the knowledge we've, goodbye it's credible. it's then up to enforcement authorities to research the case. Here, however, the chance to research is being denied thanks to the contempt."

In his book The State of the state, Nariman writes, "In India, the upper judiciary has inherent (and nearly unbridled) powers of contempt – even on the far side the laws enacted by Parliament. And for that reason, the media and also the flock of information-seeking agencies, that don't seem to be positive of however contempt law are going to be understood, ar tight-lipped. nobody dares to return out with what they believe to be the facts (in any matter referring to judges or administration of justice) albeit the law (amending the Contempt of Courts Act 1971) currently permits 'justification by truth' as a sound defence."

In July 2014, a young intern levelled allegations of harassment against a former choose of the apex court. What followed was enough to interrupt the spirit of even the foremost never-say-die fighter. Adding thereto was a Rs 25-crore defamation case filed against the 'victim' and varied media homes World Health Organization reported  the news, ANd an injunction from the urban center state supreme court checked any news of the allegations. One would possibly marvel however such immunity is offered to anyone else.

In the PN Duda versus P knife Shanker case the Supreme Court ascertained, “Administration of justice and Judges ar hospitable public criticism and public scrutiny. Judges have their answerability to the society and their answerability should be judged by their conscience and oath of their workplace, that is, to defend and uphold the Constitution and also the laws without worrying and favour. so the judges should do, within the light-weight given to them to work out, what's right. Any criticism concerning the judicatory or the judges that hamper the administration of justice or that erodes the religion within the objective approach of the judges and brings the administration of justice to ridicule should be prevented”.

Talking concerning the contempt the court remarked, “The contempt of court proceedings arise out of that try. Judgments is criticised. Motives to the judges needn't be attributed. It brings the administration of justice into dishonor. religion within the administration of justice is one amongst the pillars on that democratic establishment functions and sustains. within the free marketplace of concepts criticism concerning the judicatory or judges ought to be welcome goodbye per se criticism doesn't impair or hamper the administration of justice”.


Though it's true that the religion of individuals within the judiciary has to be maintained. But, will religion have to be compelled to be blind, empty logic and questioning? once there's obvious wrongdoing on a part of anyone entrusted with the responsibility of justice, however do i observe it, as there's continuously a risk of being suspect of ‘attributing motives’.

Lord Atkin, within the noted Ambard versus Attorney-General for island and Tobago, [1936] ascertained, "Justice isn't a cloistered virtue, she should be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, although outspoken, comments of normal men".


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