Freedom Of Press And Contempt Of Court

Introduction

Media has a mass influence over the public which at times hinders rational thinking. Oftentimes, decisions of the judiciary are vastly publicized and the media often broadcasts every nook and cranny of the cases. Fair statements with the intention of spreading awareness are not a threat to the sanctity of the judiciary but often such hearings turn into a means of entertainment for the public. Many times the public revolts against the decisions rendered by the judiciary merely because of the perspective showcased by the media.

Sometimes, even the judges get subconsciously influenced by media with respect to decision making which hampers the judicial process. This is why the independence given to the press to freely express their opinions should be backed by reasonable restrictions.

Thus, Freedom of Press is a right that needs to exercised with certain reasonable restrictions. This can be understood from Article 19 of the Constitution of India which encompasses Right to Freedom of Press.

Freedom Of Press

Freedom of press essentially means the independence of media in freely opining on various happenings around the globe and publishing the same. The press takes into consideration the views of the public to present a modified narrative favouring either the majority opinion or the minority opinion which often moulds the views of those viewers who earlier did not have an opinion on the issue or who were dissenting it.

Freedom of press is a right that is not explicitly mentioned in the statutes. It can be equated with the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression as given under Article 19 1(a) of the Constitution of India. Article 19 (1) (a) grants freedom to the citizens of India to exercise free speech and expression but reasonable restrictions are imposed on this right.

The word ‘reasonable’ in terms of restrictions was introduced by the 1stAmendment Act, 1951. It is crucial for the restrictions to be reasonable such that they they lead to the welfare of the people at large and not the individual upon whom such restriction is imposed.

Unlimited Restrictions And Unlimited Freedom

With respect to freedom of press if there are unreasonable restrictions, it might tantamount to censorship.However, unlimited freedom is equallya threat to public order.

The Apex Court in Prashant Bhushan’s case laid emphasis on the fact that even though, freedom of press is a quintessential aspect of democracy, this right cannot be limitlessly exercised at the stake of other institutions of democracy.Every individual has the freedom to have opinions both positive and negative about any decision of the judiciary and criticise them in a fair manner. However, if malice is attached to these opinions it would lead to an action of contempt against such individuals. The thoughts of an individual cannot be controlled but the expression of these thoughts needs to be within “constitutional limits”. the thinking process and words operating in the mind of one individual, but when it comes to expression, it has to be within the constitutional limits.

[Image Sources: Shutterstock]

Media press

Press is a tool instrumental in maintaining public welfare. The State has a legitimate interest in putting a restraint on free speech. The restraints are necessary to be put only to the extent of harm caused to the dignity of a person, maintenance of public order and national security etc. The need to put restrictions must be felt by the State because it is affected by the large scale influence of press for instance media trials. The State in such scenarios would to suppress the voice of the press by means of censorship which denies the public of a reality check as is presented by media. What they avail is filtered information passed through the checks and criteria of acceptable publication by the State. This would defeat the sole foundation of a democracy. Hence, restrictions on press, if imposed by the State, should be in rare cases wherein the views expressed by the press negatively affect the functioning of judiciary in terms of lost of public trust and faith in it.

Effect On The Common Man

While giving due consideration to the broad aspects of freedom of press and contempt of our affecting the public at large or the judiciary as a whole, it must not be forgotten that the judicial cases are centered around an aggrieved petitioner at the end of the day. Their quest for justice should not be hampered due to delay caused by frivolous contempt proceedings concerning publications by media. At the grass root levels, the plea of an aggrieved is to be given utmost importance and redressed as soon as possible.

CONCLUSION

An action for contempt with respect to press publication is exercised arbitrarily by the courts as it is at the discretion of the court to entertain such proceedings or not. Sometimes cases pertaining to excessive freedom exercised by the press are brought under the contempt jurisdiction, but later the contemnors are released following an apology from their side and the contempt proceedings are disposed off. This leads to unnecessary wastage of judiciary’s time when instead justice could have been served to a needy. The provisions need to be reframed in order to bring about uniformity with respect to initiation of contempt proceedings against the press if need be.

Author: Sonakshi Pandey,  A Student at Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA, in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email to chhavi@khuranaandkhurana.com or at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney.

Refernces

  1. N.SHUKLA’S CONSTITUTION OF INDIA 13th Edition
  2. Prashant Bhushan, In re (Contempt Matter), (2021) 3 SCC 160
  3. C. Saxena (Dr) v. Hon’ble The Chief Justice of India, (1996) 5 SCC 216
  4. Arundhati Roy, In Re, (2002) 3 SCC 343

Leave a Reply

Categories

Archives

  • February 2024
  • January 2024
  • December 2023
  • November 2023
  • October 2023
  • September 2023
  • August 2023
  • July 2023
  • June 2023
  • May 2023
  • April 2023
  • March 2023
  • February 2023
  • January 2023
  • December 2022
  • November 2022
  • October 2022
  • September 2022
  • August 2022
  • July 2022
  • June 2022
  • May 2022
  • April 2022
  • March 2022
  • February 2022
  • January 2022
  • December 2021
  • November 2021
  • October 2021
  • September 2021
  • August 2021
  • July 2021
  • June 2021
  • May 2021
  • April 2021
  • March 2021
  • February 2021
  • January 2021
  • December 2020
  • November 2020
  • October 2020
  • September 2020
  • August 2020
  • July 2020
  • June 2020
  • May 2020
  • April 2020
  • March 2020
  • February 2020
  • January 2020
  • December 2019
  • November 2019
  • October 2019
  • September 2019
  • August 2019
  • July 2019
  • June 2019
  • May 2019
  • April 2019
  • March 2019
  • February 2019
  • January 2019
  • December 2018
  • November 2018
  • October 2018
  • September 2018
  • August 2018
  • July 2018
  • June 2018
  • May 2018
  • April 2018
  • March 2018
  • February 2018
  • January 2018
  • December 2017
  • November 2017
  • September 2017
  • August 2017
  • July 2017
  • June 2017
  • May 2017
  • April 2017
  • March 2017
  • February 2017
  • January 2017
  • December 2016
  • November 2016
  • October 2016
  • September 2016
  • August 2016
  • July 2016
  • June 2016
  • May 2016
  • April 2016
  • March 2016
  • February 2016
  • January 2016
  • December 2015
  • November 2015
  • October 2015
  • September 2015
  • August 2015
  • July 2015
  • June 2015
  • May 2015
  • April 2015
  • March 2015
  • February 2015
  • January 2015
  • December 2014
  • November 2014
  • October 2014
  • September 2014
  • August 2014
  • July 2014
  • June 2014
  • May 2014
  • April 2014
  • March 2014
  • February 2014
  • January 2014
  • December 2013
  • November 2013
  • October 2013
  • September 2013
  • August 2013
  • July 2013
  • June 2013
  • May 2013
  • April 2013
  • March 2013
  • February 2013
  • January 2013
  • December 2012
  • November 2012
  • September 2012
  • August 2012
  • July 2012
  • June 2012
  • May 2012
  • April 2012
  • March 2012
  • February 2012
  • January 2012
  • December 2011
  • November 2011
  • October 2011
  • September 2011
  • August 2011
  • July 2011
  • June 2011
  • May 2011
  • April 2011
  • March 2011
  • February 2011
  • January 2011
  • December 2010
  • September 2010
  • July 2010
  • June 2010
  • May 2010
  • April 2010