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Report No. 200

Law prior to 1971:

Under both the Contempt of Courts Act, 1926 and 1952, there was no definition of civil contempt and criminal contempt. Further, Courts did apply contempt law to publications which interfered or tended to interfere with administration of justice if criminal proceedings were "imminent" and the person 'knew or should have known' that a proceeding was imminent (see Subrahmanyam in re: AIR 1943 Lah 329 (335); Tulja Ram v. Reserve Bank: AIR 1939 Mad 257; State v. Radhagobinda: AIR 1954 Orissa 1 . State v. Editor etc. of Matrubhumi: AIR 1955 Orissa 36; Le Roy Frey v. R. Presad: AIR 1958 Punjab 377; Emperor v. Kustalchar: AIR 1947 Lah 206).

In Smt. Padmavati Devi v. R.K. Karanjia AIR 1963 MP 61, it was held that to attract the jurisdiction of contempt, it was not necessary that the trial of the accused must be imminent in the sense that committal proceedings must have been instituted. The filing of the first information report was sufficient. At any rate, by the production of the arrested person before a Magistrate for remand, the criminal case was actually pending in a criminal court competent to deal with it judicially. In criminal cases, such a step could be taken in the case of a non-cognisable offence, by the filing of a complaint in the Court and in the case of a cognisable offence by the making of a first information report.

Arrest of the accused by the police during investigation could, therefore, be "during" the pendency of the cause. It may be that thereafter the investigation may prove abortive, the prosecution may be dropped or the accused may be released and orders may be passed granting protection to the prosecution and to the accused from unjustified attacks as long as the investigation has not ended. There is no justification for distinction between the English law and the Indian law on the point. In England also, a person may be arrested without warrant and after an arrest, the prosecution may be dropped for paucity of evidence but that has never been considered to be a good reason for not considering the criminal cause as pending.

This is so far as 'arrest' is concerned even where a charge sheet or challan was not filed before the 1971 Act.

But, before the 1971 Act, it has been held in Smt. Padmavathi Devi's case and in the following cases that as soon as a complaint is lodged in the police station and an investigation is started, the matter becomes sub-judice attracting the judicial power of the Court to punish for contempt. (Diwanchand v. Narender: AIR 1950 East Punjab 366, Rao Narain Singh v. Gumani Ram: AIR 1958 Punjab 273; Emperor v. Chowdhary: AIR 1947 Cal 414; Mankad v. Shet Pannalal: AIR 1954 Kutch 2; State v. Editor etc., Matrubhumi: AIR 1955 Orissa 36; R.K. Garg v. S.A. Azad: AIR 1967 All 37.) But this is not good law in view of the decision in A.K. Gopalan v. Noordeen (1969) referred to below.

Trial by Media free speech and fair trial under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 Back

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