The Supreme Court today reserved its order in the suo motu contempt case initiated against Advocate Prashant Bhushan for allegedly bringing disrepute to the institution through two of his tweets.
The Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai, and Krishna Murari heard the matter at length before reserving its order.
The bench also dismissed the writ petition filed by Advocate Prashant Bhushan against Secretary General of SC alleging procedural irregularities in accepting the contempt petition without the sanction of Attorney General.
The petition had sought the recall of suo motu contempt notice issued to Bhushan, AG Venugopal and Twitter Inc.
Senior Counsel Dushyant Dave, arguing for Bhushan, reiterated the stand taken in the written reply filed before the Supreme Court. He added that neither of the tweets in question hamper the administration of justice.
Fair criticism is not wrong, Dave argued before the Court and cited cases not only from India, but also from the UK to support his argument. Dave asserted that the administration of justice stands on a stronger foundation and did not come under attack in Bhushan’s tweets.
“Nobody can claim to be infallible, including the Judges.”
Dave also pointed out that in addition to Bhushan, many individuals had taken to Twitter to comment or remark on the viral picture of CJI SA Bobde on a motorcycle, and as such, singling out Bhushan and initiating contempt proceedings against him ought not to be done.
“Hundreds of people tweeted after the photo was clicked of the CJI riding the bike. Is the court going to charge all with contempt of court?”
If former judges can criticize the institute then why cannot Mr Bhushan?Dave sought to argue that Bhushan’s criticism of the individual Chief Justices was in relation to those individuals alone and when allegations are made against the Apex Court, they cannot be silenced. Dave cited the January 2018 press conference of judges as an example where the criticism against the members of the judiciary had been made public.
“If former judges can criticize the institution, then why can’t Mr Bhushan?”Dushyant Dave
Dave also raised the case concerning the sexual harassment allegations made against former Chief Justice of India, Justice Ranjan Gogoi. He pointed out that these allegations were made by a staffer. There were counter allegations made against the staffer earlier which have now been dropped and she has been reinstated into service now, Dave pointed out.
There was contempt of Court initiated against that complainant, Dave said stressing further that Prashant Bhushan was referring to instances of individual and specific CJIs. Dave argued,
“…If somebody talks about it then you cannot issue contempt against them. No institution should be free from criticism. People were worried and concerned in the backdrop of these instances. Prashant Bhushan was talking about individual chief justices…”