By- Kumar Achintya
Prashant Bhushan, a lawyer and an activist, is currently facing two contempt of court charges against him in the Supreme Court. The charges relate to a case of 2009 and certain posts made on social media by Prashant Bhushan. The cases have sparked off a new debate in which freedom of expression of an individual is standing against the freedom of judiciary in the public interest. More than 100 public appeals have been made by eminent legal personalities to the SC for withdrawal of the cases to maintain ‘judicial dignity’.
Contempt of court is a major pathway for the delivery of justice. The law originally came in 1971, but the constitution did discuss it before in Article 129. Prashant Bhushan gave an interview in 2009 in which he stated that 8 of the last 16 CJI’s were completely and corrupt and also made serious allegations against CJI Kapadia. In the case of Prashant Bhushan, the concept of criminal contempt of court was applied, which was defined as an expression of “scandalises or tends to scandalise”, and tries to lower the judiciary authority, including interference with judicial proceedings.
On 1st August, Advocate Bhushan filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court, under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, demanding the recall of the contempt notice which was issued against him on July 22 as well as against the 24 July order which included the old contempt case which was filed against him in 2009.
The original complaint was filed by advocate Mahek Maheshwari, and the complaint sought contempt action against Bhushan. The petition filed by Prashant Bhushan states that the original complaint was defective, as it was not fit for the criteria of Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971 and Rule 3(c) of the Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of the Supreme Court 1975.
The pleading contends that the SC did not fulfil the statutory requirement of taking proper consent of the Attorney General or the Solicitor General on Maheshwari’s complaint, and directly took the suo moto cognizance.
“The sudden revival of the matter in the cause-list released on 22.07.2020 with merely two days’ notice is not only inconsistent with the Handbook for Practice and Procedure in the Supreme Court which orders giving sufficient advance notice before the proposed date of listing, and also reflects the intention of the Respondent to somehow or another convict the Petitioner for contempt,” the plea states.
On July 22nd, the bench that was headed by Justice Arun Mishra issued a contempt notice to Prashant Bhushan in a ‘suo moto’ case taken after two of his tweets allegedly targeted the Indian Judiciary and the Chief Justice of India.
The bench also included Justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, who observed that his tweets “have brought disrepute to the administration of justice and are capable of undermining the dignity and authority of the Supreme Court in general and the office of the Chief Justice of India in particular, in the eyes of the general public”. The next hearing of the case is listed on the 5th of August.