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Truth Finally A Defence Against Court's Contempt Power

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 22 (UNI) Truth is now admissible as defence against contempt powers of the court, it was announced today.

The Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2006 has been enacted, having received President A P J Abdul Kalam's assent on March 17 and been since sent for Gazette Notification as Act No six of 2006, a Law and Justice Ministry statement said.

As approved by Parliament, the amended Act substitutes Section 13 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 which elaborates the circumstances under which contempt is not punishable, the statement said.

Hitherto, the provisions of the 35-year-old law were interpreted in judicial decisions to the effect that truth could not be treated as a defence to a charge of contempt of court, it said.

Four years ago, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution recommended permitting truth as defence in contempt cases if the courts found that to be in public interest.

The government was advised to amend the 1971 Act so as to introduce procedural fairness and meet the requirements of Article 21 of the Constitution-- Life and Personal Liberty.

The Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2003 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on May 8, 2003 and referred subsequently to a Parliamentary Standing Committee for examination.

The Committee considered the Bill in its meeting on September 2, 2003. But with the dissolution of the 13th Lok Sabha, the Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2003 lapsed.

It was re-introduced with some modifications as a Bill to ''further liberalise the scope to permit a defence of justification by truth on satisfaction as to bona fides of the plea and it being in public interest.'' Just two days before the year 2005 ended did the Manmohan Singh Cabinet approve a ''proposal to proceed further in Parliament (on) the Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Bill 2004.'' UNI MJ NK PC1904

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