The Supreme Court on Friday adjourned till August 4 the hearing of another contempt case against advocate Prashant Bhushan, Live Law reported. Bhushan had made some remarks against Supreme Court judges in an interview to Tehelka magazine 11 years ago, in 2009. The contempt of court case was filed by advocate Harish Salve.
“We need to hear the matter, will give you time so as to let you prepare to your satisfaction,” a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra told senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who appeared for Bhushan. Dhavan said that he needed time to go through the records and prepare for the hearing, as Ram Jethmalani, the lawyer who earlier represented Bhushan, died last year.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal, appearing for former Tehelka Editor-in-Chief Tarun Tejpal, also sought time, saying that many years had passed since the case was filed.
Senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, 94, the father of Prashant Bhushan, sought to be impleaded in the matter. But the court said: “Mr [Shanti] Bhushan, you are too senior to be impleaded. This is a suo motu issue and your argument is not a legal one, but an emotional one.”
In the interview that Prashant Bhushan gave to Shoma Chaudhury of Tehelka magazine, he claimed that half of the 16 previous chief justices of the Supreme Court had been corrupt, Bar and Bench reported. But the complaint filed against the lawyer also said that Bhushan admitted that he had no proof for his allegation. The lawyer had also criticised former Chief Justice SH Kapadia for deciding the Niyamgiri mining case involving Vedanta/Sterlite, despite holding shares in Sterlite.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court had on November 10, 2010, held the contempt petition to be maintainable. The case was heard on 17 subsequent occasions, but the last was on May 2, 2012.
Prashant Bhushan faces another contempt of court case in the top court, for some of his posts on Twitter. Twitter India is an accused party to the case. The court found the tweets posted by Bhushan on June 27 and 29 contemptuous. 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.
Prashant Bhushan’s troubles with the court
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.