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Archive for September 22nd, 2007

A contemptible law

Three Mid Day journalists are sentenced to four months imprisonment for contempt of court.

It seems that Mid Day published articles alleging that

orders passed by Justice Sabharwal in the high-profile Delhi sealing case benefited the companies of his sons,

thus angering the honourable judges.

Contempt of court is a perfect example of a bad law. It is vague, sweeping, unnecessary and against all notions of equality and free-speech. Court directives can be enforced through weaker and more exclusive means, while there already exist laws against defamation. Letting a court pronounce a sentence of contempt is akin to letting the accuser adjudicate the case. Indeed, I cannot think of any other widespread law that is so fundamentally flawed. The fact that the judiciary is the cornerstone of a democracy is no argument; in fact that makes it all the more important that it be possible to criticise and question it without fear.

In the present case, the defendents state that they will appeal the decision on grounds of truth. I wish them luck, and if their allegations are true they should be freed and adequately compensated (and the honorable judge prosecuted). But even if they made it all up, is there any good reason why they should be prosecuted under the Contempt law and not existing laws against defamation?

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