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The Hindu on indiaserver.com : The dignity of judges

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on indiaserver.com
Wednesday, December 22, 1999


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The dignity of judges

Sir, - In her two-part article, ``The dignity of judges'' (The Hindu, Dec. 15 and 16), Ms. Gail Omvedt has rightly castigated the Indian Contempt of Court Act, as obsolete and out of tune with modern jurisprudence. Many may be unaware that this Act is a legacy of British imperialism, but while the British law was amended decades ago, its Indian progeny still clings to its fossilised version. Lord Denning, in his celebrated ruling (1968) in Quintin Hogg's case, virtually sounded the death-knell of the contempt law, with the result that there is not a single instance of prosecution under it in the last three decades. In India, on the other hand, ``the dignity of judges'' is so fragile that it needs to be bolstered and buttressed by frequent recourse to contempt of court, unmindful of Milton's historic assertion in Areopagitica that ``a cloistered virtue is no virtue.'' Indeed, the Contempt Act belongs to the class of lawless laws, and shares this dubious distinction with the Judges Protection Act, 1985, in terms of which a judge can literally get away with murder. Section 3 of this Act states, under the title ``Additional Protection for judges,'' that ``notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, no court shall entertain or continue any civil or criminal proceedings against any person, who is or was a judge, for any act, thing or word committed, done or spoken by him in the course of acting, or purporting to act in the discharge of his official or judicial duty or function.''

Prof. D. C. Saxena,

Chandigarh


Section  : Opinion
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