New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday held advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court. This case was taken up suo moto by the court based on two of Bhushan’s tweets, after a complaint filed by one Mahek Maheshwari.
The case was heard by a bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari, and the bench had reserved its order on August 5. On Friday, while reading out the judgment, Justice Gavai said that Bhushan committed “serious contempt of the court”, according to LiveLaw.
Bhushan will be heard on sentencing on August 20.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave had appeared for Bhushan in the case. Dave had said that the social media comments Bhushan had made were not born out of malice, but from the notion that the court should be stronger. “To criticise a judge fairly, albeit fiercely, is not a crime, but a right,” Dave had said.
The tweets in question were critical of the top court and posted by Bhushan on Twitter 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.”
This tweet, the bench said in its order, had also been published by the Times of India.
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 top court had earlier stated that it is of the prima facie view that the statements brought the administration of justice “in disrepute and are capable of undermining the dignity and authority of the Institution of Supreme Court in general and the office of the Chief Justice of India in particular, in the eyes of public at large”.
Soon after being held in contempt on Friday, Bhushan appeared before a bench of Justice J. Nageswara Rao, arguing a PIL demanding an inquiry into the government’s “gross mismanagement” of the COVID-19 crisis.
An hour or so after he was pronounced guilty of contempt of Supreme Court for his tweets, Prashant Bhushan appeared before J. Nageswara Rao’s Bench to argue a PIL to set up an Inquiry Commission into the “gross mismanagement” of COVID-19 preparation by the govt
— Krishnadas Rajagopal (@kdrajagopal) August 14, 2020
The Supreme Court is also currently hearing another contempt of court case against Bhushan, from 2009. Earlier this week, the same bench decided that it would hear the case on its merits.
The case pertains to remarks Bhushan made in 2009 about former Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia and K.G. Balakrishnan in an interview to Tehelka magazine. He reportedly also said that half of the preceding 16 CJIs were corrupt; an allegation, according to the complaint, that Bhushan said he had no evidence for.
The Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of the issue after a complaint was filed by advocate Harish Salve. Former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal was also named in the case. On November 10, 2010, a three-judge bench held that the petition was maintainable. Since then, however, the case has been heard only 17 times until recently.