Senior Supreme Court registry officials are in the dock for listing a petition filed jointly by advocate Prashant Bhushan, senior journalist N. Ram and former union minister Arun Shourie challenging the Constitutional validity of the Contempt of Courts Act, before a different bench and not the one that is already hearing contempt cases against Bhushan.
The plea filed by journalist N Ram, former Union Minister Arun Shourie, and Advocate Prashant Bhushan assailing the constitutionality of Section 2(c)(i) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1972 has been deleted.
The Registry officials were called as they had violated the “practice and procedure in use” and as “similar matters” had to be placed before the same Bench dealing with the case.
Soon after the officials were pulled up, the Supreme Court causelist for August 10 reflected that the petition filed by N Ram, Prashant Bhushan and Arun Shourie was deleted from the Court of Justices DY Chandrachud and KM Joseph.
The petitioners had argued that the provision is vague and manifestly arbitrary. Therefore, they have prayed for the sub-section to be declared as unconstitutional.
“It is unconstitutional as it is incompatible with the preambular values and basic features of the Constitution,”the plea had said.
Procedures were ‘flouted’ in listing the petition
Both the officers told that rules and procedures outlined for listing cases were flouted in this matter, which necessitated an explanation from the officials.
“As per practice and procedure in use, the said matter should have been listed before the bench, which is already seized with similar matters, but it has been listed ignoring established practice and procedure. In this regard, explanations of the officials concerned have been sought.”officer
The petition by Bhushan, Ram and Shourie was filed on 1 August, soon after a bench led by Justice Mishra took suo motu cognisance of criminal contempt against Bhushan for two tweets of his against incumbent Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde as well as former CJIs. The top court reserved its verdict in the case on 5 August.
The same bench had also revived a 10-year-old contempt case against Bhushan for an interview he gave to Tehelka magazine where he had allegedly made serious imputation against then CJI, S.H. Kapadia, by stating that the top judge had heard a matter involving Sterlite company despite holding shares in it. In the same interview, Bhushan had claimed that half of India’s last 16 CJIs were corrupt.
In this case, in-camera proceedings were held on 4 August.
Advocate Sunil Fernandes, who is an advocate-on-record in the top court counsels said unless a fresh case is not linked to a pending matter in the top court, it can be listed before a new bench.
In this case, he said, the writ petition against the Contempt of Courts Act, has no connection with the cases against Prashant Bhushan, except that he is one of the petitioners in the new one.
“Through this fresh petition, Prashant Bhushan is not seeking relief in the existing cases against him. Therefore, this matter can go to any bench that is authorised under the rules to hear writ petitions filed under Article 32,” he said.