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Law of defamation under Penal Code cannot be equated with law of Contempt of Court in general terms

In Re: Arundhati Roy, AIR 2002 SC 1375, the Court observed that offence under IPC is different than a contempt of Court. Law of defamation under Penal Code cannot be equated with law of Contempt of Court in general terms. The Court referred to a Privy Council’s decision in Surender Nath Vs Chief Justice and Judges of the High Court, 10 Cal. 109 wherein it has been observed that “although contempt may include defamation, yet an offence of contempt is something more than mere defamation and is of a different character”.

Willmot C.J. in Wilmot’s Opinion page 256; Rex b. Davies 30 at page 40-41 said :

“..in my opinion claim out for a more rapid and immediate redress than any judges as private individuals but because they are the channels by which the Kings’s justice is conveyed to the people.”

This passage has been quoted with approval in Re: Arundhati Roy (supra) also.

The Court further referred to its earlier decision in Bathina Ramakrishna Reddy Vs. State of Madras, 1952 CriLJ 832 holding:

“When the act of defaming a Judge is calculated to obstruct or interfere with the due course of justice or proper administration of law, it would certainly amount to contempt. The offence of contempt is really a wrong done to the public by weakening the authority and influence of Courts of law which exist for their good.”

“attacks upon the judges excite in the minds of the people a general dissatisfaction with all judicial determinations… and whenever man’s allegiance to the laws is so fundamentally shaken it is the most fatal and dangerous obstruction of justice”

What is made punishable in Indian Penal Code is the offence of defamation as defamation and not as Contempt of Court. If the defamation of a subordinate Court amounts to Contempt of Court, proceedings can certainly be taken under Section 2 of Act, 1971, quite apart from the fact that other remedy may be open to the aggrieved officer under Section 499 IPC.