Rights

Ex SC/HC Judges Lead Support by 3,000 Eminent Persons for Prashant Bhushan

At least 12 former judges have signed a statement which extends solidarity to Bhushan and says that the tweets in question were a bona fide expression of concern regarding the functioning of the top court.

New Delhi: More than 3,000 people, including 12 former judges, have signed a statement extending solidarity and support to senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was recently found guilty of contempt of court by the Supreme Court for two tweets.

The signatories said that the tweets were a bona fide expression of concern regarding the functioning of the Supreme Court, which they said is the fundamental right of every citizen. “The intention of that expression was to urge the apex court to restart physical hearings, particularly of matters of national importance. The intention was also to engage with the concerns articulated by many regarding the reluctance of the judiciary to play its constitutionally mandated role as a check on governmental excesses and violations of fundamental rights by the state,” they said.

Such criticism, especially by a senior member of the bar, must be considered by the judiciary as an opportunity to introspect and strengthen the institution, the statement says.

“To hold that such criticism shakes the foundations of the judiciary and needs to be dealt with an iron hand, appears to be a disproportionate response which could, in fact, diminish the reputation of the Court,” they added.

They noted that former Chief Justice Bharucha said that the court should have broad shoulders to ignore such criticism even if it thinks it is unfair and unwarranted.

“Every institution in a democracy has to earn the public’s affection and respect, and the hallmark of a strong institution is its openness to public scrutiny and commentary. The judgment will have a chilling effect on people expressing critical views on the functioning of the judiciary. Stifling of criticism by stakeholders does not bode well for any institution, especially the highest court in the country.” the statement concludes.

The statement, along with the full list of signatories, has been reproduced below.

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Statement relating to the judgment against Prashant Bhushan in the contempt of court matter

August 17, 2020

We, the undersigned citizens of the country, express anguish and disappointment at the verdict of the Hon’ble Supreme Court finding human rights activist and advocate, Prashant Bhushan, guilty of contempt of court in respect of two tweets. We reiterate our solidarity and support for Prashant Bhushan at this conviction, which we believe is not appropriate.

The tweets were a bona fide expression of concern regarding the functioning of the Supreme Court, which is the fundamental right of every citizen. The intention of that expression was to urge the apex court to restart physical hearings, particularly of matters of national importance. The intention was also to engage with the concerns articulated by many regarding the reluctance of the judiciary to play its constitutionally mandated role as a check on governmental excesses and violations of fundamental rights by the state.

Such criticism, however fiercely expressed, is in fact a plea to the system to engage with these public concerns. Bona fide criticism, especially by a senior member of the bar, must be taken in the spirit in which it is made – to introspect and thereby strengthen the institution of the judiciary. To hold that such criticism shakes the foundations of the judiciary and needs to be dealt with an iron hand, appears to be a disproportionate response which could, in fact, diminish the reputation of the Court . If a tweet by an individual is perceived by the judiciary as destroying public confidence in the institution, it speaks poorly of the judiciary’s confidence in itself. As former Chief Justice Bharucha has said, the court should have broad shoulders to ignore such criticism even if it thinks it is unfair and unwarranted. Further, the undue haste with which the matter has been dealt with via virtual hearing amid the pandemic is extremely concerning and has, in fact, been questioned by former Chief Justice Lodha.

Every institution in a democracy has to earn the public’s affection and respect, and the hallmark of a strong institution is its openness to public scrutiny and commentary. The judgment will have a chilling effect on people expressing critical views on the functioning of the judiciary. Stifling of criticism by stakeholders does not bode well for any institution, especially the highest court in the country.

Signed by more than 3000 people including:
1. Justice Ruma Pal, former Judge, Supreme Court of India
2. Justice B Sudershan Reddy, former Judge, Supreme Court of India
3. Justice GS Singhvi, former Judge, Supreme Court of India
4. Justice Aftab Alam, former Judge, Supreme Court of India
5. Justice Madan B Lokur, former Judge, Supreme Court of India
6. Justice Gopala Gowda, former Judge, Supreme Court of India
7. Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice, Delhi and Madras High Courts
8. Justice NK Sodhi, former Chief Justice, Kerala and Karnataka High Courts
9. Justice Anjana Prakash, former Judge, Patna High Court
10. Justice Chandru, former Judge, Madras High Court
11. Justice Kannan, former Judge, Punjab & Haryana High Court
12. Justice V. S. Dave, former Judge, Rajasthan High Court
13. A. Selvaraj, IRS (Retd.), Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
14. A.K. Samanta, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal
15. Abhijit Sengupta IAS (retd), former Secretary Culture GOI
16. Achin Vanaik, Retired Professor, New Delhi
17. Admiral Ramdas, Former Chief of Naval Staff
18. Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, (retd) former Chief of Naval Staff
19. Ajit Ranade, Economist
20. Alok Perti, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI
21. Amit Bhaduri, former Professor Emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University
22. Amitabh Behar, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan
23. Amitabh Mathur, IPS (Retd.), Former Director, Aviation Research Centre and Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
24. Amitabha Pande, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
25. Anjali Bhardwaj, Social activist
26. Anna Dani, IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
27. Annie Namala, Social activist
28. Annie Raja, NFIW
29. Ardhendu Sen, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
30. Arif Ghauri, Former IRS and Governance Adviser, UK Govt
31. Aruna Rodrigues, Agriculture Activist
32. Aruna Roy, Social activist
33. Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM
34. Arundhati Roy, Author
35. Ashok Khosla, environmentalist
36. Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFoS (Retd.), Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
37. Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
38. Ashok Vajpeyi, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi
39. Avinash Mohananey, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim
40. B. S. Ajeetha, Advocate, High Court of Madras
41. Brijesh Kumar , IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
42. Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
43. Deb Mukharji , IFS (Retd.), Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
44. Deepak Nayyar, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
45. Deepak Sanan, IAS (Retd.), Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
46. Devika Singh, Social Activist
47. Dilip Simeon, Author & Historian
48. Dipa Sinha, Right to Food Campaign
49. Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, Former Chairman, Delhi Minorities Commission
50. EAS Sarma, Former Secretary to GOI
51. Elizabeth Seshadri, Advocate, Chennai
52. Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ, human rights activist
53. G. Balachandhran, IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
54. G. Sankaran, IC&CES (Retd.), Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal
55. G. Sundarrajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal
56. Geetha Thoopal, IRAS (Retd.), Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata
57. Githa Hariharan, Writer
58. Gopalan Balagopal , IAS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
59. Gourisankar Ghosh, IAS (Retd.), Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI
60. Harsh Mander, social activst
61. Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director, People’s Watch and National Working Secretary, Human
Rights Defenders’ Alert – India ( HRDA)
62. Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People
63. Hindal Tyabji, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
64. HS Gujral, IFoS, former Principal Chief Conservator Forests (Head of Forest Force), Punjab.
65. Indira Jaising, senior advocate
66. Jagdeep Chhokar, former Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad
67. Javed Anand, Journalist and civil rights activist
68. Jawhar Sircar, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati
69. Jayati Ghosh, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
70. Jean Dreze, Economist
71. Julio Ribeiro, IPS (Retd.), Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
72. K. John Koshy, IAS (Retd.), Former State Chief Information Commissioner, West Bengal
73. K. Saleem Ali, IPS (Retd.), Former Special Director, CBI, GoI
74. K. Sujatha Rao, IAS (Retd.), Former Health Secretary, GoI
75. K.P. Fabian, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Italy
76. Kamal Jaswal, Former Secretary to Govt of India,
77. Kamla Bhasin, Social Activist
78. Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA
79. Kavita Srivastava, PUCL
80. Kavitha Kuruganti, social activist
81. Keshav Desiraju, IAS (Retd.), Former Health Secretary, GoI
82. Koninika Ray, NFIW
83. Lalit Mathur, IAS (Retd.), Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI
84. Lalit Narula, Governing Council, Common Cause
85. Lalita Ramdas, Peace, Human Rights anti-nuclear Activist
86. Lenin Raghuvanshi, Founder, Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)
87. M.G. Devasahayam, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
88. Madhu Bhaduri, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Portugal
89. Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd.)
90. Maja Daruwala, Senior Advisor, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative,
91. Manoj Mitta, Author & Journalist
92. Martin Macwan, Dalit human rights activist
93. Medha Patkar, Social activist
94. Meena Gupta, IAS (Retd.),Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
95. Meeran C Borwankar , IPS (Retd.), Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research & Development, GoI
96. Mrinal Pande, Journalist and author
97. N H Seervai, senior advocate
98. N. Ram, former Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu
99. N.C. Saxena, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
100. N.K. Raghupathy, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
101. Nagalsamy, IAAS (retd.), Former Principal Accountant General of TN and Kerala
102. Najeeb Jung, IAS (Retd.), Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi
103. Nandini Sundar, professor of Sociology, DSE
104. Narendra Sisodia, Retd. Secretary to GOI
105. Navrekha Sharma, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Indonesia
106. Navsharan Singh, feminist researcher
107. Nikhil Dey, Social activist
108. Niranjan Pant, IA&AS (Retd.), Former Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General, GoI
109. P. S. S. Thomas, IAS (Rtd), Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission of India
110. P. Sainath, Journalist and author
111. P.K. Lahiri, IAS (Retd.), Former Executive Director, Asian Development Bank
112. P.R. Dasgupta, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
113. Pamela Philipose, journalist, New Delhi
114. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Author & journalist
115. Paul Divakar, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights
116. Prabhat Patnaik, Emeritus professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
117. Prakash Singh, former Police Chief, DG BSF,DGP UP & DGP Assam
118. Pranab S. Mukhopadhyay, IAS (Retd.), Former Director, Institute of Port Management, GoI
119. R. Poornalingam, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI
120. R.M. Premkumar, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
121. Rachel Chatterjee, Special Chief Secretary (Retd) Andhra Pradesh
122. Rahul Khullar, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
123. Rajeev Bhargava, Professor, CSDS, Delhi
124. Rajmohan Gandhi, Historian and Professor
125. Ravi Chopra, People’s Science Institute
126. Ravi Nair, SAHRDC
127. Ravikiran Jain, Sr. Advocate and National President, PUCL.
128. Reetika Khera, economist
129. Romar Correa, Reserve Bank of India Professor of Economics, University of Mumbai
130. Romila Thapar, Historian
131. S. P. Udayakumaran, Pachai Tamizhagam Katchi, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy
132. S.K. Guha, IAS (Retd.), Former Joint Secretary, Department of WCD, GoI
133. S.P. Ambrose, IAS (Retd.), Former Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
134. Samar Bagchi, NAPM, West Bengal
135. Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party (India)
136. Sanjay Bhasin
137. Sanjay Joshi, National Convenor, Cinema of Resistance
138. Sanjay Kak, Filmmaker
139. Satish Deshpande, Professor of Sociology, Delhi University
140. Satyavir Singh, IRS (Retd.), Former Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, GoI
141. Sevanti Ninan, Journalist and researcher
142. Shafi Alam, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General, National Crime Records Bureau, GoI
143. Shantha Sinha, Former Chairperson NCPCR
144. Sharad Behar, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
145. Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, IFS (Retd.), Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
146. Siraj Hussain, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI
147. Subodh Lal, IPoS (Resigned), Former Dy. Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
148. Sundar Burra, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
149. Suresh K. Goel, IFS (Retd.), Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
150. Sushil Dubey , IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Sweden
151. Syeda Hameed, Former member, Planning Commission
152. T. M. Krishna, Carnatic vocalist, writer, activist and author
153. Tapan Kumar Bose, Human Rights activist
154. Teesta Setalvad, Civil rights activist
155. V. Suresh, Advocate, National General Secretary, PUCL.
156. V.P. Raja, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
157. V.S. Ailawadi, IAS (Retd.), Former Vice Chairman, Delhi Development Authority
158. Vandana Shiva, Scientist, RFSTE
159. Vappala Balachandran , IPS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
160. Vibha Puri Das, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
161. Vijaya Latha Reddy, IFS (Retd.), Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
162. Vikram Lal
163. Vipul Mudgal, Activist and media scholar
164. Wajahat Habibullah, Former Chief Information Commissioner of CIC
165. Yogendra Yadav, Swaraj India
166. Yug Mohit Chaudhary, criminal lawyer

List of signatories continued here.