The Bar Council of India has rebuked senior advocate Prashant Bhushan for “ridiculing Supreme Court judgements” in the cases of Zakia Jafri, activist Himanshu Kumar and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, PTI reported on Saturday.
The lawyers’ body said that Bhushan was misusing the freedom of speech and expression and indulging in an “anti-India tirade”.
The judgements in Zakia Jafri and Prevention of Money Laundering Act cases have been denounced by the Opposition and members of the civil society saying that they either encroach on fundamental rights or favour the Centre.
The Supreme Court dismissed Zakia Jafri’s petition on June 24, saying that the petition had been filed “to keep the pot boiling for ulterior design”.
Zakia Jafri is the wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was among 69 persons killed when a mob went on a rampage at the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2022. She and activist Teesta Setalvad had challenged a Special Investigation Team report on the 2002 Gujarat riots that had cleared Narendra Modi, who was then the chief minister of the state.
On July 27, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar, upheld the core amendments made to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act that gives the government and the Enforcement Directorate virtually unbridled powers of summons, arrest and raids.
Bhushan on August 10 said that these judgements were very painful. “This takes the assault of the Supreme Court or abdication of its duty to a different level where the person who has petitioned the Supreme Court is now being penalized of having approached the Supreme Court.”
Bhushan was referring to the case about activist Kumar who has been asked to pay Rs 5 lakh after he filed public interest litigation demanding an investigation into the killings of 17 Adivasis in Chhattisgarh in 2009. The court also ordered an inquiry against Kumar and his co-petitioners.
In his speech, Bhushan also discussed the practice of judges accepting posts after their retirement. He cited examples such as the nomination of former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi as a Rajya Sabha MP and Justice Arun Mishra, who was made the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission.
On Friday, the Bar Council of India said that no one has the authority to ridicule the Supreme Court, its judges or the judiciary.
“You cannot make a mockery of the system, as the citizen of India more so, so long as you are an advocate, or else be ready to face the consequences,” the body said, according to Bar and Bench. “You can criticize anyone, but, you cannot cross the Laxman Rekha, always mind your language. The licence to practice does not empower you to misuse your position as a lawyer.”
The lawyers’ body also said that it cannot imagine the existence of Bhushan in countries like China and Russia, PTI reported.
“Persons like Mr Bhushan have never been the champions of civil liberties, rather, by doing such nonsense acts, they succeed in giving a message to the world that they are anti-Indians,” it said.
The lawyers also said that certain posts in the government are reserved for retired judges.
“Bar Councils have always been raising the issue, but, in a respectful manner before the appropriate forum,” the Bar Council of India said, according to Bar and Bench. “Maligning the image of our judges or the institution for these matters is quite improper and unjustified.”