The question was considered in the case of “Naresh Shridhar Mirjakar v. State of Maharashtra (1966)’. While considering the question, the Court analysed the question as follows-
- “An order directing a trial to be held in camera prohibits entry into the court. The law providing for trials being held in camera, even if it trespasses on the liberty of movement, would be protected under cl. (5) of Art. 19 which permits laws to be made imposing reasonable restrictions on that right in the interests of the general public.
- Now it is well recognised that the power to hold trials in camera is given in the interests of administration of justice. There can be no doubt that administration of justice is a matter of public interest. Then it seems indisputable that the restrictions that the exercise of the power to hold trials in camera imposes on the liberty of movement are reasonable.
- Law does not violate any fundamental right to free movement. A court house is not such a place into which the public have an unrestricted right of entry. The public no doubt have a right to be present in court and to watch the proceedings conducted ‘there. But this is not a fundamental right. It is indeed not a personal right of a citizen which, a fundamental right must be.
It is a right given to the public at large in the interests of the administration of justice. It cannot exist when the administration of justice requires a trial to be held in camera for in such a case it is not in the interest of justice that the public should be present.
- That right to be present in a court must be subject to the control of the Judge administering the business of the court. If it were not so, it would be impossible to carry on work in court. One cannot complain of the breach of the liberty of movement if he is prevented by law from entering a private property. For analogous reasons, a person cannot complain of a breach of that liberty when his entry to a court room is prohibited.
- In neither case he is entitled to a free right of entry to the place concerned. Now the exercise of the power to hold trial in camera no doubt has the effect incidentally of preventing a citizen from publishing proceedings of the trial, for he is by, it prevented from hearing them; what he cannot hear, he cannot, of course, publish.
- This restriction on the liberty of speech is a violation of the fundamental right in regard to it. First, the liberty of speech is affected only indirectly and it has been held by this Court in many cases beginning with A. K. Gopalan v. The State ( S.C.R. 88) that when a law which, though it violates a fundamental right is nonetheless good under any of the cls. (2) to (5) of Art. 19, indirectly affects another fundamental right for which no protection can be claimed under these clauses, no grievance can be founded on the indirect infringement.
- All that the law does is to legally prevent a person from entering the court and hearing the proceedings. Really, there is no such thing as an absolute right to hear. A person cannot complain of an infringement of the liberty of speech when all that is done is to prevent access to something which he intends to publish.
The power to prohibit publication of proceedings is essentially the same as the power to hold trial in camera. If the power to prevent publication of proceedings does not exist, it would be futile to give a power to hold a trial in camera.
- If the law giving the latter power is a good law, everything involved in that law and stemming from it must equally be good. It would follow that the power to prohibit publication of proceedings cannot also amount to any infringement of the liberty of speech. When it is said that a proceeding shall not be published, what is in fact said is that persons will be permitted to hear what they have no right to hear, on the condition that they do not publish what they hear.
- The order preventing publication is really a form of holding trial in camera. If a person taking advantage of such an order publishes it, he is certainly committing a wrong. It cannot be imagined the Constitution contemplating a fundamental right based on a wrong. The position would be the same if a person stealthily and wrongfully gets possession of a copy of the proceedings of a trial held in camera and publishes them. He has no fundamental right to liberty of speech in respect of such publication because that putably good law.
- Suppose A has a copyright in a poem and B steals it and makes it over to C. It Would be absurd if C can take shelter under the liberty of speech when he is restrained by an injunction against a threatened publication of the poem by him. I should suppose that liberty of speech is not available to do harm to others. Clearly a right cannot be based on a wrong.
- Therefore, a law empowering a court to prohibit publication of its proceedings does not affect the fundamental right of speech. It cannot be said to be bad on the ground that it infringes any such right. It also seems that the law empowering a court to prohibit publication of its proceedings is protected by cl. (2) of Art. 19. That clause says that a law may validly impose reasonable restrictions on the liberty of speech, if it is in relation to contempt of court.
- Now a law in relation to contempt of court in the present context is a law which says that. certain statements uttered or published will be a contempt of court. Their utterance or publication is prohibited. The principle on which the law is based is that the utterance or publication would interfere with the course of justice and its due administration. As I have already said, the law preventing publication of the court’s proceedings is based on the same principle.
- The publication is prohibited only because it interferes with the course of justice. An obstruction to the course of justice will of course be a contempt of court. That obstruction may take various forms. There is obstruction when comments on the merits of a case pending in a court are made. Such comments are prohibited by law and that law relates to contempt of court. Likewise an obstruction to the course of justice occurs when a court in the interests of justice prohibits publication of the proceedings and that prohibition is disobeyed.
- Such publication is prohibited by law and the law empowering the prohibition equally relates to contempt of court. That law is concerned with the powers of the court alone and does not purport to confer rights on persons. Such a law would be a good law under cl. (2) of Art. 19 if the restrictions which it imposes are reasonable.
- The restrictions which this law empowers to be imposed have to be confined within the strict limits and are plainly reasonable.”
Naresh Shridhar Mirjakar v. State of Maharashtra (1966)