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Report No. 200

The Sanyal Committee, 1963: date of arrest should be starting point:

Long before the 1971 Act was passed, the Government appointed the Sanyal Committee to go into the 1952 Act and suggest changes. The Sanyal Committee gave its Report in 1963. It did not have the benefit of the Supreme Court judgment of 1969 in A.K. Gopalan's case.

The Sanyal Committee has observed in chapter VI "Contempt in relation to imminent proceedings" as follows:

"(1) .. .. .. .. ..

(2) Precise statement of the law and reform: The conclusion we have arrived at raises the immediate question whether it is possible to state the law relating to imminent proceedings in precise terms and how far it can be clarified or modified. Courts have, by and large, tried to exercise their powers in this respect in such a way that the law of contempt does not seriously interfere with freedom of speech because they have themselves realised that it is extremely difficult to draw the lines between cases where proceedings may be said to be imminent and cases where they may not be.

For instance, the mere filing of a first information report may not be conclusive that proceedings are imminent although stern logic may demand that the line should be drawn at that point. Even where an arrest has taken place, it may not always be followed up by a judicial proceeding. The only guidance that we obtain from decided cases is that the question will depend upon the facts of each case (Foot Note 1 extracted below). Are we to leave the law in this unsatisfactory and imprecise state, particularly as fundamental rights are involved?

(3) Civil cases: .. .. ..

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

(4) Criminal cases: In respect of criminal matters, however, a slightly different approach is necessary. As in the case of pending proceedings, if a person is able to prove that he has no reasonable grounds for believing that the proceeding is imminent, it should completely absolve him from liability for contempt of court, perhaps such a defence is already available to an alleged contemnor, but we would prefer to give a statutory expression particularly as under English law, from which our law of contempt is derived, lack of knowledge would not excuse a contempt though it may have a bearing on the punishment to be inflicted.

We would also like to go a little further and provide certain additional safeguards. It has been observed in several cases that once a person is arrested, it would be legitimate to infer that proceedings are imminent (see Foot Note 2 extracted below). But in actual fact that result may not invariably follow. We have already said that it should be a valid defence for an alleged contemnor to prove that he had no reasonable grounds for believing that a proceeding was imminent. To this, we would like to add that where no arrest has been made, a presumption should be drawn in favour of the alleged contemnor that no proceedings are imminent (Foot Note 3 extracted below)."

We shall refer to the Footnotes 1, 2, 3 now:

Foot Note 1: "See the decision of the Supreme Court in Surendra Mohanty v. State of Orissa: (CrL App. No.107/56 dated 23.1.1961. In Smt. Padmavathi Devi v. R.K. Karanjia AIR 1963 MP 61, it appears to be suggested that the law should extend its protection, in the case of cognisable cases, where the first information report is made because in the Courts' view, the interest of justice would be better served by giving protection as long as the investigation has not ended. This proposition appears to be widely stated. For example, the First Information Report may contain no names.

Foot Note 2: In fact the cases relied on are cases where arrests have taken place.

Foot Note 3: R v. Oldham Press Ltd.: 1957 (1) QB 73; the law in England has already been modified by the Administration of Justice Act, 1960].

It is clear that the Sanyal Committee accepted that in criminal matters, date of arrest could be treated as starting point of pendency for the purpose of contempt law.

To that extent, the Sanyal Report of 1963 is consistent with the judgment of the Supreme Court in A.K. Gopalan's case decided in 1970.



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