N Ram, Shourie challenge contempt provision in Supreme Court

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New Delhi, August 1

Former Union minister Arun Shourie, veteran journalist N Ram and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan have moved the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of “criminal contempt”, contending it has a “chilling effect” on free speech.

They have challenged Section 2(c)(i) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, that defines “criminal contempt” as publication of anything — 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 scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers the authority of any court.

Section 2(c)(I) was a manifestly arbitrary and vague provision of law that violated right to equality and right to free speech guaranteed under the Constitution, they contended in the petition filed on Friday. “The broad and ambiguous wording of the impugned sub-section violates Article 14 by leaving the offence open to differing and inconsistent applications. This uncertainty in the manner in which the law applies renders it manifestly arbitrary and violates the right to equal treatment,” they submitted.

The trio argued that “it is incompatible with preambular values and basic features of the Constitution as it violates Article 19(1)(a).” 

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