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Contempt of Court: Tweets worth Re.1

Freedom of Speech and Expression is a natural right, guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India.

On August 14, 2020 Supreme Court held advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his tweets criticizing the Supreme Court and Judiciary. “The tweets which are based on the distorted facts, in our considered view, amount to committing of ‘criminal contempt’, CJI held. Judiciary is considered as a last hope when a citizen fails to get justice anywhere and it is not expected from a senior advocate of Supreme Court who has been in practice for 30 years and protecting the large public interest, said by the court.

Tweets that promoted the Supreme Court to initiate contempt proceeding…
Tweet 1- When historians in future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction, & more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs.

Tweet 2- “CJI rides a 50 Lakh motorcycle belonging to a BJP leader at Raj Bhavan Nagpur, without a mask or helmet, at a time when he keeps the SC in Lockdown mode denying citizens their fundamental right to access Justice.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan is a ‘public interest’ lawyer and has a part of the institution of administration of justice for more than 35 years. He has been taken many issues for the interest of public to High Court and Supreme Court.

Later in this mater, on August 20, 2020 Supreme Court gave time to Prashant Bhushan to submit unconditional apology. Further on August 24, 2020 Supreme Court upheld its verdict on Prashant Bhushan’s contempt remarks on judiciary as he refused to apology for his tweets.

Contempt of court means civil contempt or criminal contempt- “civil contempt” means wilful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or wilful breach of an undertaking given to a court.

“criminal contempt” means the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which-

(i) scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court; or
(ii) prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with, the due course of any judicial proceeding; or
(iii) interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner., Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

Guilty of Contempt, fined Re.1

After giving several opportunities to the contemnor to express apology on August 24, 2020 Supreme Court has sentenced advocate Prashant Bhushan with a fine or Re.1/­ (Rupee one) to be deposited with the Registry by September 15, 2020 and if he fails so, he shall undergo a simple imprisonment for a period of three months and further be debarred from practising in this Court for a period of three years. In Re Prashant Bhushan, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 646

Rights of unmarried Hindu daughter to claim maintenance

Rights of an unmarried Hindu daughter to claim maintenance under section 20(3) of Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956
Unmarried Hindu daughter can claim maintenance from her father till she is married, held by the Supreme Court. Earlier in this matter an application was filed under Section 125 Cr.P.C., claiming maintenance for herself and her 3 children, which was dismissed. Court ruled that daughter has to prove that she is unable to maintain herself and she has to claim this right under Section 20 (3) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (HAMA), 1956, and not under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.).

Scope of Cr.P.C and HAMA is different from each other and there is no inconsistency between these two acts but stand together. HAMA was implemented to codify the law relating to adoptions and maintenance among Hindus whereas Cr.P.C is concerned, some specific parts are applicable to all the religions and has no relationship with the personal law of the parties. Section 20(3) of HAMA is recognition of principles of Hindu Law regarding maintenance of children and aged parents.

Lastly, court cannot exercise its jurisdiction under Section 20(3) of Act, 1956 wherein the application was filed under section of the 125 of Cr.P.C., added by the court. It can be said that right of an unmarried Hindu daughter to claim maintenance under section 20(3) is absolute. Lnanak Chand v. Shri Chandra Kishore Agarwala, 1970 SCR (1) 565 also see, Abhilasha v. Prakash, CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 615 of 2020

The obligation of the father to maintain his daughter extends until she is married
The obligation of a person to maintain his or her aged or infirm parent or daughter who is unmarried extends in so far as the parent or the unmarried daughter, as the case may be, is unable to maintain himself or herself out of his or her own earnings or other property, section 20(3) of HAMA.

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Anshul Jain

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