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Contempt bill cleared by Parliament; truth valid defence now

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Mar 3 (UNI) A person charged with contempt of court can now put up truth as a valid defence under the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 amended by Parliament today, which has opened the judiciary to greater scrutiny.

The Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Bill, which had already been passed by the Lok Sabha, was today cleared by the Rajya Sabha too.

The provisions existing till now had been interpreted to the effect that the truth could not be pleaded as a defence to a charge of contempt. However, the law has been amended to introduce fairness in procedure and meet requirement of Article 21 of the Constitution in the light of the recommendation of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution., The amendment substitutes section 13 of the 1971 Act to provide that no court shall impose a sentence unless it is satisfied that the contempt is of such a nature that it substantially interferes, or tends substantially to interfere with the due course of justice.

The substituted section also provides for the Courts may permit, in any proceedings for contempt of court, justification by truth as a valid defence if it is satisfied that it is in public interest and the request for invoking the said defence is bonafide.

Earlier, replying to the debate on the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, Minister for Law Hansraj Bhaardwaj said the Act has been amended to bring in greater accountability in the judicial system, as was happening the world over.

He said the amendment relates to procedural part of contempt law, but it will introduce an element of reasonability and fairness.

The Minister said that though he felt that a lot needed to be done more to assure accountability of judges, under the present circumstances in the country when people have so much faith in the judiciary, it would not be wise to reduce their power further.

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