Do Not Punish a Conscience Keeper, Appeal Veteran Politicians to SC on Prashan Bhushan

The politicians said the top court's verdict finding the lawyer in contempt will have a 'chilling effect' on free speech.

New Delhi: Several political leaders from opposition parties have extended support to Prashant Bhushan, saying his comments which the Supreme Court found were in contempt of court, were issued in the interest of upholding constitutional and democratic norms.

Twenty politicians, including Shashi Tharoor, Farooq Abdullah, Sitaram Yechury, former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, Manoj Jha and Saifuddin Soz, said they have ‘unqualified commitment’ to uphold the dignity of India’s constitutional bodies but are of the opinion that the SC’s verdict will have a ‘chilling effect’ on free speech and expression of dissent.

The statement said it is sad that the court did not distinguish between “constructive criticism and malicious statement”. The said, “We fail to find a legitimate basis for such a sweeping approach as it would deter ordinary individuals from performing their citizenship duty of being objective in their expressions about the institutions of our democratic republic.”

They said the cause of free speech needs to be protected and promoted as India needs “plurality of perspectives and vigilance about all institutions”.

“We appeal to the Supreme Court of India to avoid the impression that we are entering an era of silence about our institutions by punishing someone who has acted as the conscience keeper of the highest country,” the statement concludes.

Bhushan’s sentencing hearing is expected on Thursday, though the lawyer has appealed that the court defer it until his review petition is heard.