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Reckless remarks will weaken judiciary, says Supreme Court
December, 09th 2011

Making reckless remarks or comments against the judiciary would weaken the institution, the Supreme Court observed on Thursday.

During the resumed hearing of a contempt case against advocate Prashant Bhushan and Tehelka, Justice Altamas Kabir, who was on a three-judge Bench, told counsel: The judiciary has withstood all kinds of pressure and has remained a strong pillar of democracy. No one stands for this institution. If this institution is corroded, it will not be good for the country. The judge further observed: This is one pillar which is still strong. To run down an institution saying there is massive corruption in the judiciary won't help us. This will only weaken the institution.

The Bench, after hearing amicus curiae Harish Salve, senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan and Shanti Bhushan, and Mr. Prashant Bhushan, decided to examine three questions and, if necessary, refer them for adjudication by a five-judge Constitution Bench.

The questions are: Will the expression of a bona fide opinion about the extent of corruption in any section of the judiciary amount to contempt of court? Can comments alleging corruption in the judiciary be justified as an expression of opinion protected by Article 19 (1) (a) and will the person who expresses such an opinion be obliged to establish the truth of the allegations which he bona fide and reasonably believed to be true?

Transparency

It was Mr. Bhushan's contention that the truth of the statements made was a complete defence against contempt. Further, transparency being the cornerstone of democracy, people had a right to know about everything. Section 13 (b) of the Contempt of Courts Act (it says the court may permit, in any proceedings for contempt, justification by truth as a valid defence if it is satisfied that it is in the public interest and the request for invoking the said defence is bona fide) in its present form was constitutionally invalid as it was an unreasonable restriction on the freedom of speech and expression, Mr. Bhushan argued.

The Bench, which included Justices Cyriac Joseph and H.L. Dattu, posted further hearing to January 4, 2012.

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