The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notices to advocate Prashant Bhushan and Attorney General KK Venugopal on the suo motu criminal contempt proceedings it has initiated against the lawyer for his alleged derogatory tweets against the judiciary, PTI reported.
It observed that the tweets prima facie “brought administration of justice into disrepute and are capable of undermining the dignity and authority of the Supreme Court in general and the office of the Chief Justice of India in particular, in the eyes of the public at large”, Live Law reported. “We take suo motu cognizance of the aforesaid tweet also apart from the tweet quoted above [in the order] and suo motu register the proceedings,” the top court added.
The top court, which had also initiated proceedings against social media company Twitter India, directed that Twitter Inc of California be made a party in the case. Senior lawyer Sajan Poovayya, who appeared for Twitter India, said they have been impleaded incorrectly. He also stated that the tweet in question could be disabled after a court order.
A three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari suggested that Twitter should itself disable Bhushan’s alleged contemptuous tweets, according to News18. “Why can’t you do it on your own?” the court asked Poovayya. “Even after we have initiated the contempt proceedings, do you want to wait for a formal order? We think we won’t pass any order and will leave it your wisdom.”
The lawyer said he will convey the court’s order to his client. “Now that the court has taken suo motu cognisance, I get what my lordships are saying,” Poovayya added. “I will convey the message.”
The top court asked Venugopal to assist in the matter and will hear the matter next on August 5.
During the hearing, Mishra pointed out the tweets posted by Bhushan on June 27 and 29. The first tweet commented about undeclared emergency and the role of Supreme Court and last four chief justices of India. The second tweet was about Chief Justice SA Bobde trying a Harley Davidson superbike in his hometown Nagpur.
The Supreme Court had pulled up Bhushan in 2013 too, 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.
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.