August 14, 2020

SC holds Prashant Bushan guilty of contempt of court, will hear arguments on sentence on Aug, 20

New Delhi/Aug, 14: The Supreme Court on Friday held activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court for scandalising the judiciary by his tweets against Chief Justice of India SA Bobde.

A Bench of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice BR Gavai and Justice Krishna Murari – which held him guilty – will hear arguments on sentence on August 20.

Pronouncing the verdict, Justice Gavai said Bhushan committed a “serious” contempt of court.

Recently, Bhushan had tweeted, “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!”

In another tweet on June 27, he had 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, amp; more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs.”

The top court had on July 22 taken strong exception to both the tweets and initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against Bhushan.

Referring to two of Bhushan’s tweets, a Bench had earlier said, “We are, prima facie, of the view that the aforesaid statements on Twitter have 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.”

The top court had on August 5 reserved its order on a suo motu criminal contempt case initiated against Bhushan for his tweets allegedly scandalising the judiciary after hearing at length senior advocate Dushyant Dave, on behalf of Bhushan.
Dave had argued that no institution should be free from public criticism.

Earlier, it had decided to go ahead with contempt proceedings against the activist-lawyer in a in 11-year-old contempt case in which he had expressed regret but refused to apologise.

During the hearing, Dave had tried to impress upon the Bench that Bhushan’s tweets critical of CJI SA Bobde and former CJIs didn’t amount to scandalising the judiciary.

“Mr Bhushan’s contribution to development of the PIL jurisprudence is immense. He criticises the court because of love and affection for the institution. He did not impute any motives. Please don’t misunderstand him,” Dave had submitted.

“Perhaps you (Bench) would have given him Padma Vibbushan for the work in the last 30 years,” he had said requesting the Bench not to proceed with the criminal contempt case.

“Do you think we have broad shoulders?” Justice Mishra had asked.

“You usually have but may be not in this case,” Dave had replied.

He had said no one, including judges, can claim infallibility. “Hundreds of people tweeted after the photo was clicked of the CJI riding a bike. Is the court going to charge all of them with contempt?” Dave asked.

On behalf of Twitter, senior counsel Sajan Poovayya had said his client was only an intermediary in this case.

“There are 50 crore tweets every day. It’s not possible for us to look at all of them. After the court’s notice we withheld the tweets in question. I (Twitter) should not have been impleaded at all,” Poovayya had submitted.

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