In response to the court contempt case filed against him, activist-Lawyer Prashant Bhushan maintains that critiquing actions of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) does not amount to contempt of the court.
A bench of justices on 21 July initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against Prashant Bhushan and Twitter India based on a plea filed by advocate Mehak Maheshwari.
Bhushan responded to the two-page suo motu notice with a 132-page affidavit, where he mentions that his tweets were his exercise of freedom of speech and “however outspoken, disagreeable or unpalatable to some”, does not constitute to “scandalizing the court.” The comments on the SC were made, “with the highest sense of responsibility.”
The affidavit also provided with a detailed critique of the SC’s decisions and decision-making detailing numerous cases, the overwhelming majority of which were represented by him, where, he alleged, the SC failed to act by “abdicating its duty to protect basic constitutional values, fundamental rights of citizens and the rule of law”.
He also included a list of problematic incidents and orders of the court under the last four CJIs, broken down by their respective tenures.
The SC issued the notice over his alleged derogatory tweets against the judiciary posted on June 27 and June 29 respectively. In the first tweet mentioned in the notice, Bhushan commented on the picture of CJI Bobde on a luxury sports-bike while the SC remained closed. In the second tweet, Bhushan expressed his views on the state of affairs in the country for the past six years and the role of the past four CJIs.
Bhushan in his reply, however, regretted the part of his comment on CJI Bobde that he did not observe that the bike was parked. But, he reiterated his criticism on the part that the court remained closed during lockdown depriving the needy to access justice.
Bhushan said the court cannot be equated with the Chief Justice of India and a bona fide critique of the actions of a Chief Justice, or a succession of Chief Justices cannot and does not scandalize the court, nor does it lower the authority of the court.
“To assume or suggest that the CJI is the SC, and the SC is the CJI’ is to undermine the institution of the Supreme Court of India,’’ said Bhushan.
The next hearing of the case is on Wednesday (August 5).