Several Retired SC, HC Judges Express Solidarity With Prashant Bhushan

The most recent signatories to endorse a statement condemning contempt proceedings against Bhushan include former SC Justices Ruma Pal, G.S. Singhvi, Asok K. Ganguly, Gopala Gowda, Aftab Alam, Jasti Chelameswar and Vikramjit Sen.

New Delhi: A statement in solidarity with Prashant Bhushan, which was released a few days ago with 131 signatories, has been subsequently endorsed by seven more retired Supreme Court judges and another retired high court judge.

The most recent signatories to endorse the statement, which condemns the contempt proceedings initiated against Bhushan by the Supreme Court, include former SC Justices Ruma Pal, G. S. Singhvi, Asok K. Ganguly, Gopala Gowda, Aftab Alam, Jasti Chelameswar and Vikramjit Sen. Justice Anjana Prakash, a former judge of the Patna high court, also signed the statement.

The signatories have said that in the interest of justice and fairness and to “maintain the dignity of the Supreme Court”, the top court must reconsider the decision to initiate suo motu contempt proceedings against Bhushan.

The full statement and list of signatories has been published below.


Statement in solidarity with Mr. Prashant Bhushan on the initiation of Criminal Contempt Proceedings against him

We the undersigned citizens of the country, express our concern with the initiation of contempt proceedings against human right activist and advocate, Mr. Prashant Bhushan, by the Supreme Court of India, in respect of two of his tweets. Mr. Bhushan has been a relentless crusader for the rights of the weakest sections of our society and has spent his career in pro bono legal service to those who do not have ready access to justice. He has fought cases at the Apex Court on issues ranging from environmental protection, human rights, civil liberties, corruption in high places and has been an outspoken champion for judicial accountability and reforms, especially in the higher judiciary.

In the past few years, serious questions have been raised about the reluctance of the Supreme Court to play its constitutionally mandated role as a check on governmental excesses and violations of fundamental rights of people by the state. These questions have been raised by all sections of society- media, academics, civil society organisations, members of the legal fraternity and even by sitting and retired judges of the Supreme Court itself. Most recently, the Supreme Court’s reluctance to intervene in a timely manner to avert the migrant crisis during the lockdown came under intense public scrutiny. Concerns have also been raised regarding the decision of the court to not restart physical hearings, even in a limited manner, despite passage of five months since the onset of the COVID pandemic.

We urge the Hon’ble judges of the Supreme Court to take note of these concerns and engage with the public in an open and transparent manner. The initiation of contempt proceedings against Mr. Bhushan who had articulated some of these concerns in his tweets, appears to be an attempt at stifling such criticism, not just by Prashant Bhushan but by all stakeholders in the Indian democratic and constitutional setup. We believe the institution must address these genuine concerns.

An institution as important as the Supreme Court of a country must be open to public discussion without the fear of retribution or action of criminal contempt. Indeed, criminal contempt as an offence has been circumscribed and made redundant in most functioning democracies, such as the USA and the UK. In the landmark U.S. Supreme Court judgement in New York Times v. L.B. Sullivan 11 L’ed (2nd) 686, with respect to contempt of court and the freedom of speech and expression it was held: “Injury to official reputation affords no more warrant for repressing speech that would otherwise be free than does factual error. Where judicial officers are involved, this Court has held that concern for the dignity and reputation of the courts does not justify the punishment as criminal contempt of criticism of the judge or his decision. This is true even though the utterance contains “half-truth” and misinformation”.

Even in India, the principle that criticism of the judiciary should not be stifled by the indiscriminate use of the power of contempt has been recognized by the Supreme Court as well as by academics and advocates of repute, such as the late Senior Advocate Shri Vinod A. Bobde who had stated [“Scandals and Scandalising”, (2003) 8 SCC Jour 32], “We cannot countenance a situation where citizens live in fear of the Court’s arbitrary power to punish for contempt for words of criticism on the conduct of judges, in or out of court.”

Therefore in the interest of justice and fairness and to maintain the dignity of the Supreme Court of India, we urge the Court to reconsider its decision to initiate suo-moto contempt proceedings against Mr. Prashant Bhushan and to withdraw the same at the earliest.

Endorsed by:

  • Justice Madan B. Lokur, Former judge of the Supreme Court of India
  • Justice AP Shah, Former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court
  • A. Selvaraj, IRS (Retd.), Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
  • Aakar Patel
  • Achin Vanaik, writer and social activist, former professor at the University of Delhi
  • Admiral Ramdas, Former Chief of Naval Staff
  • Ajit Ranade, economist
  • Alok Perti, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI
  • Aloke B. Lal, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General (Prosecution), Govt. of Uttarakhand
  • Amit Bhaduri, former Professor Emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Amit Singh Chadha, Senior advocate
  • Amitabha Pande, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
  • Anand Grover, Senior advocate
  • Anjali Bhardwaj, Social activist
  • Annie Namala, Social activist
  • Annie Raja, NFIW
  • Ardhendu Sen, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
  • Aruna Roy, Social activist
  • Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM
  • Arundhati Roy, Author
  • Ashok Khosla, environmentalist
  • Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFoS (Retd.), Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
  • Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
  • Bezwada Wilson, Safai Karamchari Andolan
  • Bobby Ramakant, Socialist Party (India)
  • Brinda Karat, CPI(M)
  • C. U. Singh, senior advocate
  • Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
  • D. Raja, General Secretary CPI
  • Deb Mukharji, IFS (Retd.), Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
  • Deepak Nayyar, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  • Devika Singh, Social Activist
  • Dipa Sinha, Right to Food Campaign
  • Dr Dharamvira Gandhi,, Punjab Manch and former Lok Sabha member from Patiala
  • EAS Sarma, Former Secretary to GOI
  • Enakshi Ganguly, Co- Founder and Advisor, HAQ Centre for Child Rights
  • Fabian K.P
  • Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ, human rights activist
  • G. Balachandhran, IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
  • G.G. Parikh, Freedom Fighter
  • Ganesh Devy, National President, Rashtra Seva Dal
  • Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Senior advocate
  • Gopalan Balagopal, IAS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
  • Harsh Mander, social activst
  • Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director, People’s Watch and National Working Secretary, Human Rights Defenders’ Alert – India ( HRDA)
  • Hindal Tyabji, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
  • Indira Jaising, senior advocate
  • Jagdeep Chhokar, former Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad
  • Javed Anand, Journalist and civil rights activist
  • Jayati Ghosh, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Jean Dreze, Economist
  • Julio Ribeiro, IPS (Retd.), Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
  • K. John Koshy, IAS (Retd.), Former State Chief Information Commissioner, West Bengal
  • K. Saleem Ali, IPS (Retd.), Former Special Director, CBI, GoI
  • Kalyani Chaudhuri, IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
  • Kamal Jaswal, Former Secretary to Govt of India, Department of Information Technology
  • Kamayani Swami, NAPM, Bihar
  • Kamla Bhasin, Social Activist
  • Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA
  • Kavitha Kuruganti, social activist
  • Lalita Ramdas, Peace, Human Rights anti-nuclear Activist
  • Lubna Sarwath, Socialist Party (India)
  • M.G. Devasahayam, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
  • M.Y. Rao, IAS (Retd.)
  • Madhu Bhaduri, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Portugal
  • Mahadev Vidrohi, President, Sarva Seva Sangh
  • Manoj Mitta, Author & Journalist
  • Martin Macwan, Dalit human rights activist
  • Medha Patkar, Social activist
  • Meena Gupta, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
  • Meera Sanghamitra, Member, National Convening Committee, NAPM
  • Mihir Desai, Senior advocate
  • Mrinal Pande, Journalist and author
  • N. Ram, former Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu
  • N.C. Saxena, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
  • Nagalsamy, IA&AS (Retd.), Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala
  • Najeeb Jung, IAS (Retd.), Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi
  • Navrekha Sharma, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Indonesia
  • Neeraj Jain, Lokayat, Associate Editor, Janata
  • Nikhil Dey, Social activist
  • Noor Mohammad, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority, GoI
  • P. Sainath, Journalist and author
  • P.K. Lahiri, IAS (Retd.), Former Executive Director, Asian Development Bank
  • P.R. Dasgupta, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
  • Pamela Philipose, Journalist
  • Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Author & journalist
  • Paul Divakar, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights
  • Prabhat Patnaik, Emeritus professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Prabir Purkayastha
  • Pradeep K. Deb, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
  • Prakash Singh, former Police Chief, DG BSF,DGP UP & DGP Assam
  • Pranab S. Mukhopadhyay, IAS (Retd.), Former Director, Institute of Port Management, GoI
  • Prof. Alok Rai, Allahabad
  • Prof. Manoj Kumar Jha, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
  • R. Poornalingam, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI
  • Rahul Khullar, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
  • Rajeev Bhargava, Professor, CSDS, Delhi
  • Rajmohan Gandhi, Historian and Professor
  • Rajni Bakshi, Journalist and author
  • Raju Sharma, IAS (Retd.), Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of UP
  • Ramachandra Guha, Historian and writer
  • Ravi Chopra, People’s Science Institute
  • Ravi Vira Gupta, IAS (Retd.), Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
  • Reetika Khera, economist
  • S.R. Hiremath, Founder President, Samaj Parivartana Samudaya (SPS), Dharwad
  • Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party (India)
  • Sanjay Bhasin
  • Sanjay Hegde, Senior advocate
  • Satish Deshpande, Professor of Sociology, Delhi University
  • Sevanti Ninan, Journalist and researcher
  • Shafi Alam, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General, NCRB, GoI
  • Shailesh Gandhi, Former Information Commissioner of CIC
  • Shantha Sinha, Former Chairperson NCPCR
  • Sharad Behar, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
  • Sonalini Mirchandani, IFS (Resigned), GoI
  • Subhasis Bandyopadhyay, IIEST, Shibpur
  • Subodh Lal, IPoS (Resigned), Former Deputy DG, Ministry of Communications, GoI
  • Sudhir Nandrajog, Senior advocate
  • Sundar Burra, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
  • Surabhi Agarwal, Socialist Party (India)
  • Suresh K. Goel, IFS (Retd.), Former Director General, ICCR, GoI
  • Syeda Hameed, Former member, Planning Commission
  • Teesta Setalvad, Civil rights activist
  • V.P. Raja, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, MERC
  • Vandana Shiva, Scientist, RFSTE
  • Vijaya Latha Reddy, IFS (Retd.), Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
  • Vipul Mudgal, Activist and media scholar
  • Vivek Mukherjee, Assistant Professor & Faculty Coordinator, NALSAR
  • Vrinda Grover, Advocate
  • Wajahat Habibullah, Former Chief Information Commissioner of CIC
  • Yogendra Yadav, Swaraj India