On Tuesday, the High Court of Karnataka sought response from the Central Government in a petition challenging the validity of Section 2(c)(i) of Contempt of Court Act which criminalises the publication of any matter which could lower the authority of Courts.
The petitioners’ Senior Counsel Prashant Bhushan, Hindu group director N Ram, former minister Arun Shourie and journalist Krishna Prasad have stated that Section 2(c)(i) has a chilling effect on the right to freedom of speech.
Hon’ble Chief Justice AS Oka issued notice to the Central Government and posted the case for hearing in February 2021.
Under the Contempt of Courts Act, two kinds of contempt are defined: criminal contempt and civil contempt.
Section 2(c)(i) of the Act deals with criminal contempt and publication of material against the Court.
The Section has three sub-clauses which explain when Act or publication could amount to criminal contempt:-
- Is an act or publication scandalised or lowers the authority of the Court.
- If it interferes or prejudices with a judicial proceeding.
- If it interferes or obstructs the administration of justice.
In the petition, only the sub-clause (i) has been challenged by the petitioners. The petitioners contended that the provision has an extensive import and cannot be objectively interpreted. The plea mentioned an example where a traffic cop questioned a beacon on a judge’s car and was held in contempt on the grounds of scandalising the Court.
The petitioners prayed the Court to frame guidelines and rules that would define the Superior Court’s process while taking criminal contempt action.