Introduction: The case, titled “Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar and Ors. vs. State of Maharashtra and Anr.”, was adjudicated on 03/03/1966. The bench was composed of P.B. Gajendragadkar, A.K. Sarkar, K.N. Wanchoo, M. Hidayatullah, J.C. Shah, J.R. Mudholkar, S.M. Sikri, R.S. Bachawat, and V. Ramaswami.
Facts of the Case: In this case, a defamation lawsuit was filed against the editor of a weekly newspaper on the original side of the High Court. During the trial, one of the witnesses requested that the court prohibit the publication of his evidence in the press, as his business would be affected. Following this, the trial judge passed an oral order prohibiting the publication of the witness’s evidence. A reporter from the weekly, along with other journalists, filed a petition under Article 32 challenging the order’s validity.
Issues: The issues that arose in this case were:
1. Whether the High Court had the inherent power to pass the order.
2. Whether the impugned order violated the fundamental rights of the petitioners under Article 19(1)(a).
3. Whether the order was amenable to the writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 32.
Contention of Both Parties: The petitioner contends that while fundamental rights in India are not absolute, reasonable restrictions can be imposed under Article 19(2) to (6) of the Constitution. The petitioner argues that the power to ban the publication of faithful reports on legislative proceedings is unclear for Indian legislatures and courts. He asserts that the court’s imposed restrictions, allegedly unjustified under Article 19(2), exceed jurisdiction. The petitioner emphasizes the broad scope of Article 32, asserting citizens’ right to move to the Supreme Court against legislative and executive bodies for constitutional remedies when fundamental rights are violated. The respondent justifies the court’s judgment, citing protection of witnesses and parties’ rights under Article
19(2). He argues that the scope of Article 32 is not as wide as the petitioner claims, referencing Article 12’s definition of “The State,” which excludes the judiciary. The respondent contends that protection under Articles 20, 21, and 22 applies only against the legislature and executive, not the judiciary, and Article 32(1) cannot be enforced against individual citizens.
Judgement: The court held that the impugned order was within the inherent power of the High Court. The court justified this decision by stating that the order was passed to prevent the publication of the witness’s evidence during the trial and not after it. The order was deemed necessary for the administration of justice to obtain true evidence in the case.
The court further stated that the High Court has inherent jurisdiction to hold a trial in camera if the ends of justice clearly and necessarily require such a course. Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure saves the inherent power of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary for the ends of justice or to prevent abuse of the process of the court.
However, Justice Hidayatullah dissented, arguing that a court holding a public trial cannot suppress the publication of a witness’s deposition on the witness’s request that his business will suffer. He stated that Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure cannot be used to confer a discretion on the court to turn its proceedings, which should be open and public, into a private affair.
Law Used in the Case: The court relied on the Practice and Procedure Act, the Inherent jurisdiction of the High Court, the power to stop the publication of proceedings of a trial, and the order if it violates the fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a). The court also considered whether the order was amenable to proceedings under Article 32 of the Constitution. Conclusion: In conclusion, the court held that the order preventing the publication of the witness’s evidence during the trial was within the inherent power of the High Court. However, the court also acknowledged that the power should be exercised judiciously, and not to suppress the publication of proceedings of a trial, unless there is a strong case for doing so. The court also affirmed the fundamental rights of the petitioners and stated that the order did not contravene these rights.
Written by Bhumika Brahmbhatt an intern under legal vidhiya.
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