SC Drops 2009 Contempt Case Against Prashant Bhushan, Tarun Tejpal Over 'Tehelka' Interview

In 2009, Bhushan had given an interview to 'Tehelka' magazine in which he had said that several previous Chief Justices of India are corrupt. Tejpal was then editor of the magazine.

Listen to this article:

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday, August 30, dropped a contempt case against activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan and journalist Tarun Tejpal filed in 2009 over their remarks against the judiciary.

A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee, Surya Kant and M.M. Sundresh on Tuesday closed the proceedings after senior advocate Kapil Sibal informed that an apology has been tendered.

“In view of the apology tendered by the contemnors, we do not deem it necessary to proceed with the contempt. The contempt proceedings are dropped,” the bench said.

In 2009, Bhushan had given an interview to Tehelka magazine in which he had said that several previous Chief Justices of India are corrupt. Tejpal was then editor of the magazine.

After the interview, the apex court in November 2009 issued a contempt notice to Bhushan and Tejpal for allegedly casting aspersions on some sitting and former top court judges in the interview.

According to LiveLaw, the contempt case against Bhushan and Tejpal was filed by senior advocate Harish Salve, who had alleged that Bhushan in his interview said that half of the last 16 Chief Justices were corrupt. As per the complaint, Bhushan also said in the interview that he had no proof for the allegations.

Also read: The Evidence Is In: Freedom of Expression Is Dead in India

However, in response to the 2009 contempt case, Bhushan had told the apex court that making corruption charges against the judges would not amount to contempt of court and mere utterance of corruption charge could not be contempt of court.

Bhushan, while hearing the case, had issued a following statement with regard to his Tehelka interview:

“In my interview to Tehelka in 2009, I have used the word corruption in a wide sense meaning lack of propriety. I did not mean only financial corruption or deriving any pecuniary advantage. If what I have said caused hurt to any of them or to their families in any way, I regret the same. I unreservedly state that I support the institution of the judiciary and especially the Supreme Court of which I am a part, and had no intention to lower the prestige of the judiciary in which I have complete faith. I regret if my interview was misunderstood as doing so, that is, lower the reputation of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, which could never have been my intention at all.”

In another case filed in 2020, Bhushan was found guilty of criminal contempt for his tweets criticising the Supreme Court and Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde. The court had on August 31, 2020 imposed a token fine of Re 1 as a punishment.

The tweets in question were posted by Bhushan on June 27 and June 29. The June 27 tweet said, “When historians in future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction, & more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs.”

The June 29 tweet included a photo of CJI S.A. Bobde riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and said, “CJI rides a 50 lakh motorcycle belonging to a BJP leader at Raj Bhavan, Nagpur, without a mask or helmet, at a time when he keeps the SC in Lockdown mode denying citizens their fundamental right to access Justice!”

The apex court bench had asked Bhushan multiple times to apologise for his tweets. However, Bhushan said he could not, in good faith, apologise, since he believed he had done nothing wrong, and his criticism was constitutional and valid.

(With PTI inputs)