Defences In Criminal Contempt
By Shagun Mahendroo
1)Publication and circulation of information in a lawful manner:
Section 3 enumerates the defences available to a defendant who is accused of publishing or disseminating such publications.
There was no reasonable basis to believe that legal action was being taken:
If a contempt proceeding is brought against a person on the grounds that he is responsible for a publication that prejudices, interferes, or tends to interfere with a pending proceeding, he may argue that he had no reasonable grounds for believing that the proceeding was pending at the time of publication.
It creates an exception to the strict liability rule in cases where a publication interferes or tends to interfere with or obstructs or tends to obstruct the course of justice in pending proceedings by allowing the person charged to prove that he had no reason to believe any proceedings related to the publication were pending.
Publication of any matter that interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the course of justice in connection with any civil or criminal proceedings will not make the person responsible for such publication liable for contempt of court if he can show that the proceedings about which such publication was made were not pending at the time of publication.
Section 3 states that a person is not guilty of contempt if he distributes a publication on the grounds that it contains any matter that interferes or tends to interfere with or obstructs the course of justice in connection with any civil or criminal proceedings pending at the time of distribution if he had no reasonable grounds for believing that it contained such matter at the time of distribution. Although this is not applicable in the event of a foreign newspaper because they will be unaware of the content and have no obligation to become acquainted with it.
2)Reporting of judicial proceedings that is both fair and accurate:
Section 4 states that publishing a fair and truthful report of judicial proceedings or any stage thereof does not constitute contempt of court. The administration of justice should be open and transparent as a general rule. This principle is based on concerns of public interest. As a result, must yield when the public interest dictates the level of privacy.
3)Criticism of the Judicial Act that is fair:
Fair criticism of judicial action is not contempt, according to Section 5. This clause states that a person is not in contempt of court if he or she publishes a reasonable comment on the merits of a matter that has already been heard and decided.
Fair comment conditions are as follows:
It has to be founded on true facts. If a statement is made based on a factual error, it is not fair.
It must not imply that the individual whose behaviour is being critiqued has corrupt motives.
It must be a true reflection of the writer's true feelings.
4)A genuine complaint has been filed against the subordinate court's presiding authorities.
Section 6 allows for a genuine complaint against the presiding officer of a subordinate court. It states that a statement made in good faith by a person concerning a presiding officer of any subordinate court to any other subordinate court or High court to which it is subordinate is not guilty.
5)As a defence, there was no significant interference with the due course of justice or the truth.
Section 13 in the contempt of court action has been added, which states that no court shall impose a punishment under the act for contempt unless it is satisfied that the contempt is of nature, that it interferes with the right course of justice, and that the contempt is of nature.