Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was convicted by the Supreme Court on August 31 for Contempt opf Court and was fined Re. 1 has moved the apex court seeking a review of the impugned judgment. Additionally, Prahsant Bhushan has prayed for an open court hearing of this instant review petition and has sought the referral of larger questions of constitutional importance pertaining to contempt of court to a larger bench.
The petition has been filed through Advocate Kamini Jaiswal
Contentions stated in the review petition
- Bhushan contends that he was at no point informed by the court about the adversarial nature of the proceedings to the extent that it could render him incapable to appear before the Supreme Court for a designated period.
“At no point was petitioner put to notice that the court was contemplating such a drastic action against him.”Review petition
- It has been contended that the judgement is per incuriam (lack of care/without due regard to laws and precedents) as no semblance of procedure has been followed by the Court. In this regard he has stated that he was not furnished with a copy of the complaint filed against him in line with the Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of the Supreme Court, 1975. He further argues that he was prevented from filing an additional reply before the Court when his preliminary reply was found unsatisfactory.
- It has been further contended that Prashant Bhushan was denied to lead evidence under Section 17(5) of Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, to substantiate averments in his preliminary reply. In this regard it was stated that “The denial of opportunity to lead evidence is not only in explicit contravention of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, but in the teeth of judgement of Co-ordinate bench in R.K. Anand v. Delhi High Court, (2009).”
- An additional contention is that imposing any punishment on a person who has been convicted for contempt of court is not strictly in accordance with the types and quantum of punishments prescribed under Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, is violative of Article 20(1) of the Constitution.
- Other contentions raise questions on the quantum of punishment he was given to the extent that the sentence of imprisonment in case of default in the payment of fine was disproportionate and contrary to the Code of Civil Procedure.
- Another contention states that “error apparent on the face of the record” is that the Court failed to consider truth as a defence to the contempt charges against Prashant Bhushan, the plea states, “This Hon’ble Court committed an error apparent in recording that a finding of truth or falsity of the statements was unnecessary, and then proceeding to negative the defence of truth for a supposed and untested lack of bona fides and public interest. Such an approach would also be inconsistent with Section 13(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971 under which truth alone would be an incomplete defence, unless it is accompanied by bona fides and regard for public interest.”
- Prashant Bhushan has contended violation of Article 20(3) of the constitution as his defense against contempt charges were viewed as ‘aggravation’ by the court.
The review petition categorically mentions a ‘manifest error’ that the apex court committed by treating valid criticism as a tool to affect administration of justice.
“By treating instances of strident criticism of individual judges and of the institutional functioning and features of the Supreme Court at large as being ipso facto capable of affecting the administration of justice, this Hon’ble commits an manifest error. Such an approach to Section 13(a) reduces it contents – which operate as a safeguard to the benefit of accused persons – to a dead letter.”
Furthermore, the larger questions that the review petition avers needs a decisive ruling by a Bench of appropriate strength are:
a. Whether the power under Article 129 is subject to the rigours of Part III of the Constitution, and the rights under Articles 19(1)(a), 20, 21, 22 and 32?
b. Whether a summary procedure in cases of criminal contempt which is not ex facie curiae is compatible with Part III of the Constitution of India?
c. Whether, in view of the fact that the suo motu proceedings for contempt of a constitutional court call for the court to act both as aggrevied and as adjudicator, the provision of a right to an intra-court appeal is necessary in interest of public confidence and the fundamental rights of accused persons under Articles 20, 21, 22 and 32 of the Constitution of India?
The Supreme Court had sentenced Advocate Prashant Bhushan on August 31 to a token fine of Re. 1 in the contempt case against him for his tweets criticising the judiciary.