OVERVIEW OF THE NEWLY INTRODUCED FARMERS BILLS 2020

Two new bills relating to agriculture and farmers were introduced in June and were passed by Rajya Sabha on 23rd September 2019. Those agricultural bills are- 

  1. 1. The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation Ordinance, 2020)
  2. 2. The Farmer’s (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm. 

These bills will impact the farmers, the consumers, the state and the middlemen established in the APMC system. 

The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce bill aims to create an ecosystem where the farmers are free to sell their produce wherever and to whomever they want to, which directly paves way for the establishment of inter and intra state trade of farmers produce. The same is protected under the second bill as mentioned above which makes rules and regulations for empowering farmers to trade with various businesses and wholesalers. 

However, it doesn’t repeal or replace the previously established system which is under the Agriculture and Produce Marketing Committee Act. Hence, the bill is creating a choice for the farmers to carry out their trade on their will. 

In the previous APMC act, the farmer had to go through the “Mandis” as established in the act after which the commission agents would take their produce for traders to auction and purchase. The auction has to necessarily start at the Minimum Support Price which is decided by the Government of India. This price is decided for certain products only and this provision has not been repealed in the new ecosystem. The commission agents collect a market fee, cess and other taxes which are then collected by the State Governments which forms a huge part of their revenue. 

These bills address the issue of monopoly established by the traders through APMC. But the problem or difficulty with the bill is that it will be beneficial only if implemented effectively and if practiced by the farmers; given that they are aware of the same. Educating farmers about their rights and making them aware is an important part of the implementation process. 

Apart from that, the removal of middlemen will definitely benefit the consumers since the products will be comparatively cheaper. 

However, this bill will largely affect the State Revenue since they will not be receiving any taxes in the new ecosystem. Even though the bill aims to benefit the farmers, the view of the states was not considered appropriately and the states were not even given a fair participation in the Rajya Sabha where they protested against the bill.

A potential solution to that could be that the bills be introduced to a Select Committee which consisted of agricultural experts and the opposition being given a chance to be heard.

In that manner, the bill could have been speculated so as to benefit all and be compatible with the federal structure of the constitution and thereby upheld the democratic process of making a legislation.

Media Trial

Miss. Stuti Ladia, Mumbai University.

Media has been regarded as one of the four pillars of democracy. It has a crucial role in molding and shaping the opinion of the society. It has the ability to change the opinions and points of view of the masses.

Media Trials take place when the media takes cases into their own hands by declaring the accused as convicts even before the constitutional courts have given their decision. There have been cases where, due to the wrath of the media, the decision of the court has been affected.  A few examples if this being Jessica lal case, the Priyadarshini Mattoo case, the Bijal Joshi rape case, etc. It is the widespread coverage of guilt of the accused and imposing a certain perception about him regardless of any verdict given by the court. Wherever there has been high publicity, the media has involved itself and used hysteria to create an undue importance among the viewers, making it difficult for the trial to be fair and just. There have however been reasons as to why the attention of the media around certain cases is sensationally high. The reasons are:

  1. Cases that involve children or they could be so horrific or gruesome that the media considers it necessary to sensationalize such cases. 
  2. The case could be of a leading celebrity; either as a victim or as an accused. Cases where celebrities are involved involuntarily attract media thereby influencing their fans.

The history of media trials goes back to the 20th Century. This term was coined recently; however, its meaning was derived from the case of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, 1921. In this case the accused was acquitted by the court but he had lost his reputation and job after the media had declared him guilty. Another famous case of media trial is the Trial of O.J. Simpson, 1995. In this particular case, the media had promoted the case and influenced the mind of the viewers. K. M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra also falls under the same umbrella. In this case as well, the media had played a crucial role in portraying its opinion and guiding people’s minds in a direction it sought fit. It is mostly the media’s coverage and its opinion of a case which  reflects the views of a commoner- people on the street. This is because the media acts as a bridge between the cases and the people.

Media Trials – Constitutional rights: 

Freedom of press and independence of judiciary are essential in a democracy. The question of how constitutional a media trial is depends on the effect it has on the society and public at large. 

Freedom of Speech and Expression.

As per Article 19 of the Constitution of India we have a right to freedom. Freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed under Article 19(1). It gives people the right to have their opinion however it also has a set of restrictions and boundaries.

Even though the Supreme Court of India has covered and given the status of freedom under Article 19 there have been cases where the Supreme court has restricted them of the same if the rights have been misused or it has hampered the public at large and has gone against the Rule of Law.

These are a few landmark cases on trial by Media.

  1. In the case of In re P.C. Sen v. Unknown, 1968 an appeal had been filed against the order of the High Court of Calcutta declaring that a speech broadcast on the night of November 25, 1965, on the Calcutta Station of the All India Radio by Mr. P. C. Sen- the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, was calculated to obstruct the course of justice and on that account amounted to contempt of court and the conduct of Mr. Sen merited disapproval. It was then concluded by Justice Shah that any act that is done to bring down the authority of court or any other act which is committed to bring down the proceeding of law would be termed as contempt of court.
  1. In Sushil Sharma v. The State (Delhi Administration and Ors.) there was hardly any evidence against the accused for murdering his partner; even then the media took the case in its hands and even before the court could pass any judgment, it portrayed the accused guilty; changing the opinion of the public. It was then declared by the High Court of Delhi that the person who had been accused, his fate would solely depend on the evidence and facts presented before the court and not due to the influence of the media and its portrayal of the accused.

Restrictions imposed on Media.

Restrictions on media is a dicey concept as the restriction should not be rigid which would curtail the powers of the media in a significant amount nor should it be lenient that it can be misused conveniently. In accordance with the Constitution of India, where Article 19 provides freedom on the other hand in Article 19(2) the Constitution also has reasonable restrictions. Thus, it is the constitutional responsibility of the courts to ensure that such restrictions do not go beyond the ambit of the reasonable restrictions as mentioned in the Constitution of India.     

To regulate the powers of the press, the Press Council of India was established. It has had an effective role in regulating the powers of the press to prevent it from publishing defamatory and  prejudiced content. Through this way when the content is presented in front of the viewers it does not go against the law and does not influence the society negatively.   

Conclusion.

From the article above, it can be concluded that media trial has more of a negative impact than positive. The content published by them needs to be strictly monitored and the courts need to regulate media in a way that democracy and freedom are neither hampered, nor misused. It should be kept in consideration that the media is a voice which is the fourth pillar for the sole purpose that it can benefit the society and not hamper an innocent’s reputation and misguide the public.  

Maratha Community’s Plea under SEBC placed before a Constitutional Bench.

Recently, the Supreme Court passed a stay order against operation of the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act, passed by the State of Maharashtra in 2018. The Act provides a 16% quota to the Maratha community in both- education and government employment. Subsequently, this increased the aggregate quota of all reservations allowed in Maharashtra; hence crossing the 50% limit. This is in contravention to the landmark judgement of the SC in Indira Sawhney v. UOI in 1993 that had put a 50% ceiling on reservation by individual states and stated that the same could be exceeded only in “exceptional and extraordinary circumstances”.

Subsequently, a plea was filed against this in the Bombay High Court. A three judge bench upheld the validity of the reservation to the Maratha community but capped the same at 12% for education and 13% for employment. This too exceeded the 50% cap. The same was challenged in the Apex Court through an appeal in case of Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil v. The Chief Minister. A three judge bench of the Supreme Court along with passing of the stay order and referring the issue to a Constitution Bench of five or more judges for final adjudication observed the following:

1.  There is a need for reconsideration of the Judgement of the Court in Indira Sawhney v. UOI and whether exceeding the 50% cap is constitutionally valid.

2. The said issue required an interpretation of the Constitution (102nd Amendment) Act, 2018 as this helps determine the competence of the State Legislature to declare a particular caste to be socially and educationally backward.

3. The court clarified that the said stay order was not to affect those that had already availed the benefits of the SEBC Act. 

The case is to be placed before CJI SA Bobde, who shall decide on the constitution of the larger bench.

DISCREPANCIES IN THE PRIVACY AND DATA PROTECTION BILL, 2019

Following the landmark Puttaswamy Judgement, a committee was appointed under Justice Srikrishna in order to draft a bill for ensuring privacy and data protection. This committee proposed a bill in 2018 wherefore it was amended by the government and titled- PDP Bill, 2019 which is yet to be passed, with some significant changes-  

  1. Section 14 states that processing of personal data for ‘other reasonable purposes’ can be done by the government and the Data Protection Authority (DPA) without obtaining consent. However, giving notice of the same to the Data Principal (person the data relates to) is not mandatory and has to be decided by the government/authority. 
  2. Section 35 gives the Central Government power to exempt any agency of government from application of the Act i.e. surveillance of personal data can be done as well if directed and exempted by the Central Government.
  3. Section 91 (2) states that the Central Government can access anonymized personal data or non-personal data for better targeting of services. 
  4. The Data Protection Authority’s powers are diluted in the 2019 Bill, for e.g. the Central Government has the power of categorizing sensitive personal data whereas in 2018 bill the same was granted to DPA. 

These changes were looked down upon by Justice Srikrishna. There are various other provisions in the act that need to be in line with the principles laid down in the Privacy Judgment considering the fact that right to privacy is a fundamental right and the bill needs to guard the right and not exploit it. 

Criminal Contempt: A Legal Point of View

Miss. Vidhi Dugad, Mumbai University.

Contempt of Court is a phrase that should be understood by interpreting the word- ‘contempt’. Contempt in simple words means disgrace or disrespect. The Judiciary holds an esteemed position in law, especially in the Indian Legal System. The Indian Legal System is based upon the principle of Rule of Law which means that the law is supreme. In such a state the judiciary is given even more importance because it is considered to be the guardian of laws[i].

The laws for contempt of court exist not to protect the judges or courts but to protect the justice system itself[ii]. The powers to punish for contempt are provided to the courts by the Constitution of India under Article 129[iii] which states that “The Supreme Court of India shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.” Furthermore, Article 215[iv] states “High Courts to be courts of record. Every High Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.” Therefore, the High Courts and the Supreme Court, both have the powers to punish for contempt.

As stated in The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 S.2(a), there are two major types of contempt:

  1. Civil Contempt[v]

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. Therefore, violation of any directions ordered by the court may amount to civil contempt.

  1. Criminal Contempt[vi]

This type of contempt is a more serious one and it is more difficult to determine. There are three things that may constitute as criminal contempt- scandalizing or lowering the authority of a court, prejudicing a judicial proceeding, and obstructing or interfering with administration of justice[vii]. Doing any act or publishing anything which has the above mentioned results amounts to criminal contempt.

Even lawyers are not excused in cases of contempt. For better understanding, we can look at the case of Jaswant Singh v. Virender Singh[viii]. In this case, there was a transfer petition filed which set up a serious allegation on the learned judge and his discharge of judicial functions. The Honourable Supreme Court in this case held that the claims and language used was not only derogatory but it also interfered with the conduction of a fair trial. Therefore, the lawyer was held in contempt. A similar verdict has been upheld several other times in very recent cases where judges have taken suo motu action against advocates who make derogatory allegations against judges[ix].

Media is regarded as the medium that voices public opinion and at the same time brings knowledge of the routine world to the people. However, sometimes the phenomenon of media trial arises. This term- ‘media trial’ is the idea that before the court passes a judgement, the accused has already been tried by the media in a public sphere and has been declared guilty. The Supreme Court of India in certain cases has referred to ‘trial by press’ as a ‘miscarriage of justice’[x]. In the case of M.P. Lohia v. State of W.B[xi], the Supreme Court went as far as warning the editor and writers that their articles would affect the case. Media Trials not only hinder the administration of justice, they also violate the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’[xii].

Time and again several cases of criminal contempt have been initiated and most of them have been ruled against the accused. In the Arundhati Roy Case[xiii], based on a statement worded- “By entertaining a petition based on an FIR that even a local police station does not see fit to act upon, the Supreme Court is doing its own reputation and credibility considerable harm” in Ms. Arundhati’s Affidavit, contempt of court proceedings were initiated against her. She responded to this by further criticising the court at several instances. Ms. Arundhati Roy was in the end punished for contempt. This case raised a lot of question on the contempt of court laws and their relevance today.

The most recent case of criminal contempt that has moved the minds of masses is the Prashant Bhushan Case[xiv]. Mr. Prashant Bhushan- a Senior Advocate practicing in the Supreme Court of India made two tweets on twitter. One was regarding the Chief Justice of India riding an expensive motorcycle without mask while the Supreme Court was closed due to the pandemic and a second one regarding how the democracy that is India was being destroyed with reference to the Supreme Court and past four CJIs. The Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance of this case. In the defence of Mr. Prashant Bhushan, it was argued that the first tweet was just a statement to show distress over the fact that the Supreme Court of India was not functioning which violates the citizen’s rights, where meanwhile the Chief Justice of India was enjoying without wearing a mask in times of Covid-19. It was said that if this was contempt the fundamental rights under Art. 19(1)(a)of the Constitution of India[xv] would be violated.

For the second tweet the defence argued that the tweet was a ‘bona fide opinion about the situation in the country’ by Mr. Bhushan. It was further argued that there was no basis for contempt of court accusation because all statements made were at the judge as a private individual. The defence further argued that the decision of the court be given after considering the situations and circumstances surrounding the facts and not only on the basis of the statements made. However, the final decision of this case came with a guilty verdict with a fine of Rs. 1/-.

Exceptions:

There are certain exceptions to contempt of court. Most of them are mentioned in The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971:

  1. S. 3: Innocent publication and distribution of matter not contempt[xvi]. This means that if a person publishes something regarding a case or proceeding or interferes with the process of justice in an ongoing proceeding but has no reasonable grounds to believe that the proceeding is ongoing, they cannot be held in contempt for it,
  2. S. 4: Fair and accurate report of judicial proceeding not contempt[xvii]. and
  3. S. 5: Fair criticism of judicial acts not contempt[xviii]. Which means that comments or criticism on case, judgements, orders, or judicial decisions that have already been decided will not amount to contempt.

Conclusion:

Contempt of court has become a controversial topic overtime; especially criminal contempt. We have observed this in the Arundhati Roy[xix] case where there was a lot of opposition towards the guilty judgement. Furthermore, the contempt of court law is becoming increasingly redundant in other nation states. In England itself, from where India has inherited this law, courts are refusing to peruse contempt cases[xx]. The effect that Contempt of Court has on Freedom of Speech and Expression should not be ignored either. Contempt of Court is a reasonable restriction that can be imposed on the fundamental right guaranteed under Art. 19(1)(a). Therefore, it is important to analyse contempt from the perspective of a restriction especially after the Prashant Bhushan case[xxi] where Mr. Bhushan seeks a right to appeal[xxii]


[i]Spadika Jayaraj, Judicial Accountability and Contempt of Court: Comparing India with U.K., the U.S.A. and Singapore, 1.1 CALQ (2013) 18.

[ii]Attorney General v. Times Newspapers, [1973] 3 W.L.R. 298.

[iii] INDIA CONST. art. 129.

[iv] INDIA CONST. art. 215.

[v] Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

[vi] supra

[vii] Id at 5

[viii] Jaswant Singh v. Virender Singh, 1995 Supp (1) SCC 384.

[ix] Re: Ajay Kumar Pandey, (1996) 6 SCC 510.

[x] State of Maharashtra v. Rajendra Jawanmal Gandhi, (1997) 8 SCC 386.

[xi]  M.P. Lohia v. State of W.B, (2005) 2 SCC 686.

[xii] Anukul Chandra Pradhan v. Union of India, (1996) 6 SCC 354.

[xiii] Re Arundhati Roy, (2002) 3 SCC 343: AIR 2002 SC 1375.

[xiv] Re Prashant Bhushan, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 646.

[xv] INDIA CONST. art. 215, cl. 1(a).

[xvi] Id at 5

[xvii] Id at 5

[xviii] Id at 5

[xix] Id at 13

[xx] A.P. Shah, The chilling effect of criminal contempt, The Hindu (JULY 27, 2020 00:45 IST), https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-chilling-effect-of-criminal-contempt/article32198138.ece.

[xxi] Id at 14.

[xxii] Legal Correspondent, Prashant Bhushan case | Plea to uphold right of appeal in contempt case, The Hindu (SEPTEMBER 13, 2020 08:28 IST), https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/prashant-bhushan-case-plea-to-uphold-right-of-appeal-in-contempt-case/article32589978.ece.

Writ petition can’t be filed against a judicial order of hc-supreme court

The Apex Court in a recent judgement-  “Neelam Manmohan Attavar vs Manmohan Attavar (D) Thr LRs” reinstated a crucial point of law. 

It held that a writ petition under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution is not maintainable to challenge a judicial order or any order which has been passed by the High Court in exercise of its judicial powers. 

The decision was laid by a two judge bench consisting Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice KM Joseph in exercise of power of the Supreme Court to transfer cases under Article 139A.

The petitioner in the present case filed a writ petition under Article 226 in order to challenge a judgment dated 31 July 2018 delivered by a Single Judge of the Karnataka High Court under its criminal revisional jurisdiction. The petitioner prayed through the petition that the said judgement may be declared void/disabled/recalled and a fresh hearing be instituted before a higher/full bench. 

The petitioner based her submissions on the grounds that the order had not been written by the Judge of the HC and that while disposing the criminal revision the court had exercised its jurisdiction in a manner inconsistent with the provisions of Section 397 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973. Further, she challenged the findings of the court; deeming them to be erroneous. 

The respondent claimed that the litigant is not without any remedies since she can approach the court through Letters Patent Appeal or by way of a review or through article 136.

The court ruled in favour of the Respondent and disallowed the Writ Petition on grounds of maintainability. 

But SC left open the rights and remedies available to the petitioner by way of a Special Leave Petition under Article 136 of the Constitution to assail the judgment of the Single Judge bench. 

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started