Monday, March 10, 2014

Burning questions

Advice - Rights and Laws, Mar '14
By Kaushik Gupta

Reader queries

Wouldn't criticizing the decision of a court of law publicly amount to contempt of court?
Anonymous, Kolkata

It will not be contempt if the criticism is fair and not derogatory. It depends on the manner and context in which such criticism is made. It is also important to use restrained language. There should not be use of un-parliamentary words or an attempt to malign the judiciary. A fair criticism of a judgment will not be deemed to be contempt. A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court for publishing any fair comment on the merits of any case, which has been heard and finally decided. The Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression includes in its ambit the right to fairly criticize a judgment of a court of law.

An act will amount to contempt of court if it causes an insult to judges, attacks them as a whole, or comments on pending proceedings with a tendency to prejudice fair trial. Contempt of court is also possible when the conduct of a person tends to bring the authority and administration of the law into disrespect or disregard.

In this context we have to remember the immortal words of Voltaire: “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.”

What legal recourse does an adult man have against same-sex sexual assault?

However surprising it might sound, the only legal recourse for an adult male person in case of a same-sex sexual assault is under the provisions of Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. In spite of the recommendations made by the Justice Verma Committee in early 2013 on amending criminal law to deal with sexual assault, the Government of India did not make the provisions of sexual assault gender neutral for the victim. Therefore, under Indian law only a woman can be raped or sexually assaulted and not a man. For a man, who is a victim of same-sex sexual assault, it still is an ‘unnatural offence’ that can only be dealt under Section 377.

Kaushik Gupta is a lawyer by profession, a photographer by passion, and happy to answer your queries on legal matters around gender and sexuality. Write in your queries to, and they will be answered with due respect to confidentiality.

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