The Supreme Court on Tuesday initiated suo motu criminal contempt proceedings against advocate Prashant Bhushan and social media company Twitter India, India Legal reported. It is, however, not yet clear which tweets the court has considered contemptuous.
The case is expected to be heard on Wednesday by a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari.
In recent months, Bhushan took up the cause of migrant workers in the Supreme Court, arguing that the government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 lockdown had created a humanitarian crisis. The judges had rebuked him for his criticism of the court. In the past, Bhushan has made statements about the treatment of activists such as Varavara Rao and Sudha Bharadwaj, who are imprisoned in the Elgar Parishad case.
The Supreme Court had also pulled up Bhushan in 2013, when he had made “disturbing remarks” against the judges hearing the coal scam. Bhushan had wondered why the court did not take action against Goolam E Vahanvati, the attorney general in the UPA government, for allegedly lying in court. He later apologised to the court.
More recently, in March 2019, Bhushan turned down the Supreme Court’s offer to “unconditionally apologise” to the court for seeking that Justice Arun Mishra recuse himself from hearing a contempt plea against him. In February 2019, Attorney General KK Venugopal had filed a contempt petition in the Supreme Court against Bhushan for allegedly scandalising the court with his tweets on the turmoil in the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The plea had referred to the lawyer’s tweets, dated February 1, 2019, in which he had accused the Centre of misleading the top court regarding the appointment of the CBI’s former interim chief M Nageswara Rao. Bhushan had even hinted at the possibility of the government submitting fabricated minutes of the meeting of a committee headed by the prime minister that was tasked with appointing the agency’s director.
But the next month, Bhushan told the Supreme Court that he had made a “genuine mistake” with his tweet. The top court had at the time said it would consider the larger issue of whether a person can criticise a court in a matter that is sub judice to influence public opinion.