Calculated Assault on Free Speech and Expression

Supreme Court on 14th August 2020 in re Prashant Bhushan and Anr. the case held that advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court. In the backlog, Advocate Prashant Bhushan tweets about judges and judiciary which were considered to be false and have taken the public confidence and institution of judiciary. The issue of the case was whether the two tweets of Prashant Bhushan fall under article 19(1) of the constitution of India or not? Article 19(1) of the constitution of India guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression to the citizens of India and article 19(2) puts reasonable restrictions on this right. But the question is what is considered to be reasonable? Is criticism considered to be reasonable or not? The concept of contempt of court or sovereign immunity has evolved from England.


The Latin Maxim 'rex non potest peccare' which means that the king can do no wrong' and then further applied for judges in England. In this Era, the king can also do wrong. Here the term 'King' has been used for judges or any person with authority and power to take decisions. So, if someone from the same field criticizes any act or points out the lacuna on any public platform then it must not amount to contempt of court. Although the courts have sovereign immunity that doesn't mean it will cut in the right to free speech and expression.


If punishment would be given for criticizing anybody then it is a threat to democracy without declaring an emergency. Authors do criticize in their books, the country where the media is free to print or publish, free to criticize or publish anything against the government, the nation where the Constitution of India guaranteed right to freedom of speech and expression. While in the same country, Judgement has laid down the wrong example that criticism with good faith amounts to punishment. Isn't it indirectly taking away the right to speech and expression of people? Would anyone be able to speak against the judiciary and what is the guarantee that they won't be punished in the same way?





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