Plea in Supreme Court challenging Contempt Act

Senior journalists N Ram, Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan said the law was rooted in colonialism and arbitrary

Supreme Court
The court was hearing a contempt plea against the Jammu and Kashmir administration | Photo: iStock

Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, senior journalist N Ram and former Union Minister Arun Shourie have filed a plea in the Supreme Court challenging the Contempt of Courts Act on Saturday (Aug 1).

They argued that the colonial act was unconstitutional and had a chilling effect on freedom of speech and expression, reported NDTV. They sought quashing of certain provisions of the act, formed in 1971, which deemed “unconstitutional and against the basic structure of the Constitution.”  “…By criminalising criticism of the court in sweeping and absolute terms, the impugned sub-section raises a prior restraint on speech on matters of public and political importance,” the petition said.

The petitioners referred to Section 2(c)(i) of the Contempt of Courts Act, which states that “criminal contempt means the publication [whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise] of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which (i) scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court”.

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The petition further said that the act finds no place democratic constitutionality and is “manifestly arbitrary” as what may or may not cause scandal is subjective. “Scandalising the court’ is rooted in colonial assumption and objects, which have no place in legal orders committed to democratic constitutionality and maintenance of an open robust public sphere,” the petition said, The Hindu reported.

This move comes a few days before the apex court is to hear contempt proceedings initiated against him for his two allegedly derogatory tweets against the judiciary. Over 130 dignitaries, including former apex court judge Justice MB Lokur and renowned writer Arundhati Roy, urged the Supreme Court earlier to “reconsider” and “withdraw” its decision to “initiate suo-motu contempt proceedings” against Bhushan.

(With inputs from agencies)

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