Prashant Bhushan 2009 contempt case: SC to hear on merits

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday decided to hold a detailed hearing on whether to accept the explanation tendered by Advocate Prashant Bhushan in the contempt case taken against him in 2009 and has decided to hear the case on merits.

The bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said that it needs to examine if any statements alleging corruption against judges would per se amount to contempt.

The bench will start hearing on August 17.

On August 4, a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari had reserved orders on whether to accept his explanation and said that it will proceed to hear the case in detail if his explanation was not found acceptable.

“In case we do not accept the explanation/apology, we will hear the matter. We reserve the order”, the bench noted in the order.

During the hearing, the bench had asked Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan, Bhushan’s counsel, if he was willing to apologize.

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As per the press release issued by Prashant Bhushan’s office, he refused to tender an apology but agreed to issue the following explanation.

“In my interview to Tehelka in 2009 I have used the word corruption in a wide sense meaning lack of propriety. I did not mean only financial corruption or deriving any pecuniary advantage.

If what I have said caused hurt to any of them or to their families in any way, I regret the same. I unreservedly state that I support the institution of the judiciary and especially the Supreme Court of which I am a part, and had no intention to lower the prestige of the judiciary in which I have complete faith.

I regret if my interview was misunderstood as doing so, that is, lower the reputation of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, which could never have been my intention at all.”

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The suo moto case was taken on the basis of a complaint made by Senior Advocate Harish Salve.

The contempt proceedings pertain to allegations made by Salve towards Bhushan where Bhushan allegedly said that half of the last 16 Chief Justices were corrupt. As per the complaint, Bhushan also said in the interview that he had no proof for the allegations.

The complaint was filed by Salve through an interlocutory application filed in the Sterlite case, in which he was the Amicus Curiae.

On November 6, 2009, the complaint was placed before a bench comprising the then Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice S H Kapadia, which directed that the matter be listed before a 3-judge bench in which Justice Kapadia was not a member.

On January 19, 2010, a bench comprising Justices Altamas Kabir, Cyriac Joseph and H L Dattu issued notices to Bhushan and Tarun Tejpal, the Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka magazine.

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