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Accountability of the
Judiciary is must.
Recent example of Gujarat - Justice for sale is
raising once again the issue of accountability of the Judiciary not
just at local level but also at High Court and Supreme Court level.
In many part of the world and in India, the judiciary enjoys a
unique position in that the Contempt of Courts Act, against
substantive criticism, protects its members. While this law may be
meant to uphold the “dignity” and "authority" of the judiciary, the
breadth of its applicability has acquired worrying implications. The
Indian courts are also very touchy about the issue of Contempt of
Court and that is why it has been interpreted in various judicial
decisions that even truth cannot be pleaded as a defense in case of
Contempt of the Court.
even criticism of judges based on facts, which are factually true,
can attract punishment under the Act. Such a situation is unhealthy
for any open and vibrant democracy.
If observations, remarks, comments and criticisms regarding the
facts of a case and law are prevented in the name of contempt of
court, the legal process is rendered less transparent and placed
beyond the reach of open debate and dissent so vital for the healthy
functioning of democracy.
It is clear from the wording of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971,
that rather than defining the courts' powers to punish for contempt,
the Act has acquired the potential to be misused to stifle genuine
criticism against judges and judgments. This has grave implications
for ensuring accountability of one of the key pillars of bourgeoisie
democracy. I strongly feel that there is a need to re-examine the
Contempt of Courts Act in its entirety. It is high time to demand
that Parliament should amend the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 to
make it clear that any criticism of the court, howsoever severe, and
any contention against even a Judge or the judiciary, will not
constitute contempt if based on facts.
Human Rights Activist of Gujarat
30th January 2004.