Freedom of Speech Vis-À-Vis Contempt of Court

in India

Undoubtedly, every citizen has the crucial and highly regarded right to freedom of expression. Due to the fact that our government is elected, capable, and restricted, we need the chance to criticise it in order to satisfy our society’s desire for the free exchange of ideas. The freedom to think and speak how we like is fundamental to the discovery and dissemination of truth, without which conversation is likely to be ineffective. Our Constitution has therefore correctly attempted to create some form of harmony between the various competing social interests because if we simply ignore them, we run the risk of endangering our ability to maintain social values like public order and state security. It has permitted sensible limitations on the resident’s privilege to the right to speak freely of Discourse and Articulation on the foreordained grounds to serve the greater total interest of the country with everything taken into account. Reasonable constraints in respect of issues showed in Article 19(2) of the Constitution are essential for consolidated advancement on libertarian, dynamic lines of any congruity treasuring refined society.

The Law of Contempt in India isn’t based on the Pre-Constitutional design after the country’s 1947 independence and even more so after the 1952 Contempt of Courts Act[1]. This announcement serves a number of vital goals, including upholding Article 19(1)(a) of our Constitution, which grants everyone in our country the right to free speech and expression. It doesn’t imply that using excessively coarse language may always secure immunity from contempt laws.

It is implied that Freedom Movement pioneers understood the value of freedom of speech and expression. They also understood how the Fourth Estate fared throughout the years leading up to independence. Thus, the Indian Constitution includes the right to freedom of speech and expression.

In the famous case of Bathina Ramakrishna Reddy v. The State of Madras[2], the Supreme Court had to decide between the freedom of speech and contempt of court issues. In this instance, the appealing party alleged bribery and defilement against a Sub-Magistrate in a Telgu Weekly piece. The claimant claimed that the piece was published as a result of his desire to uphold the nation’s most illustrious judicial tradition and to promote public confidence in the legal system. The High Court right after hearing the gatherings showed up at the goal that the distribution being alluded to added up to scorn of court, as not entirely set in stone to cut down the distinction and pride of courts and carry into unpleasantness to the organization of equity. The disputant, interalia, took the solicitation that the charges of taking pay off are legitimate and made as per some fundamental trustworthiness. Since the engaging party couldn’t demonstrate the charges made by him and besides wouldn’t offer a conciliatory sentiment, conveying the judgment of the court Equity Mukherjee held the engaging party obligated of disdain.

The conviction in the matter of E. M. S. Namboodripad v. T. Narayanan Nambiar[3] was founded on the clear articulation of the appealing party, E. M. S. Namboodripad, when he was Kerala’s Chief Minister. The appealing party claimed at a press conference that judges “are guided and ruled by class contempt, class premium, and class partialities,” which innately favour the wealthy against the poor. He claimed that the judiciary “neutralises labourers, workers, and various groups of the common labourers” as members of the ruling classes and that “the law and the judiciary generally appear the abusive classes.”

The engaging party’s advice, U.K. Krishna Menon conflicts explicitly were:

  • That the law of hatred should be scrutinized without encroaching upon the guaranteed right to talk openly and explanation in Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India, 1950.
  • That the assumption for the contemnor in offering his appearance at the question and answer session should be examined in the illumination of the political viewpoints as he was at an end to put them before individuals.
  • At last, the damage done to the court by his declaration should be apparent.

Any of the disagreements brought up by the appealing party’s attorney did not pique the court’s interest. Regarding the initial dispute, the Court observed that “although it is planned that there ought to be the freedom to speech and expression, it is also proposed that contempt of court should not be committed in exercise of the right.” With the exception of situations where contempt is overt, malicious, or serious, the court observed that the right to free speech always prevails.

Chief Justice Beg delivered the court’s order in the case of S. Mulgaokar, and Justices Krishna Iyer and Kailasam each delivered a separate, concurring order, taking a genuine look at the report that was issued, Chief Justice Beg observed that the legal executive cannot escape scrutiny. In any case, criticism that is based on blatant errors or mutilations and expressed in a manner that looks to be intended to undermine public confidence in the judiciary cannot be disregarded.


[1] The Contempt of Courts Act, 1952 (32 of 1952).

[2] 1952 SCR 425.

[3] (1970) 2 SCC 325.

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