A public statement in recent Contempt case has been issued by a group of lawyers, including several prominent senior lawyers, expressing their dismay over the Supreme Court‘s August 14 verdict where two tweets that were critical of the Supreme Court’s functioning and Advocate Prashant Bhushan was held guilty of criminal contempt of Court.
It is the lawyers’ duty to freely bring any shortcomings to the notice of bar, bench and the public at large.
“An independent judiciary does not mean that judges are immune from scrutiny and comment.”The Statement
The lawyers expressed that “While some of us may have divergent views on the advisability and content of Mr. Prashant Bhushan’s two tweets, we are unanimously of the view that no contempt of court was intended or committed.”
While being a lawyer of good standing in the Supreme Court, Bhushan is not an ordinary man, “his tweets do not say anything out of the ordinary, other than what is routinely expressed about the court’s working in recent years by many on public fora and on social media.”
The statement adds that even some retired judges of the Supreme Court have expressed similar views and the lawyers go to raise concern in this backdrop.
The Statement to stand with Bhushan in the Contempt Case
“This judgment does not restore the authority of the court in the eyes of the public. Rather, it will discourage lawyers from being outspoken… A bar silenced under the threat of contempt, will undermine the independence and ultimately the strength of the Court. A silenced bar, cannot lead to a strong court.”The Statement
While it is mandated under contempt law that the opinion of the Attorney General is necessary, a grievance is also raised that KK Venugopal’s opinion was not taken before the verdict was passed.
The urge by the signatory-lawyers has been made that after the pandemic, when the matter can be heard in open court unless the standards of contempt jurisdiction are reviewed by a larger Bench of the Supreme Court the August 14 verdict should not be given effect.
“We are of the firm view that the judgment must not be given effect to, until a larger bench, sitting in open court after the pandemic has the opportunity to review the standards of criminal contempt.”The statement
The request has been made by the signatory-lawyers that accompany the statement to other members of the Bar to subscribe their names on google forms.
In contempt case lodged related to a 2009 interview against Bhushan wherein he accused certain former Supreme Court judges of corruption was also being heard on merits by the Supreme Court.
The query of, “In case you have any grievance against any judge, what should be the process? In what circumstances can such allegations be made?” was sought in order to understand the permissibility limits of criticism against the Court.
The matter shall be taken up next week.