The Supreme Court Thursday allowed former Union minister Arun Shourie, veteran journalist N Ram and advocate Prashant Bhushan to withdraw their plea challenging the constitutional validity of Contempt of Courts Act, 1972, Bar and Bench reported. The petitioners said they wanted the liberty to raise the issue again “maybe after two months or so”.
A three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari took up the matter, days after a controversy had erupted around the listing of the case. But at the onset of the hearing, advocate Rajeev Dhawan, appearing on behalf of the petitioners, told the court that they would like to withdraw the plea. “The issue is important but the petitioners would not like to raise the issue at this stage,” Dhawan said.
The petitioners said they wanted the plea to be withdrawn because several petitions on the same issue are pending before the top court and they did not want “this to be entangled” with them, according to PTI.
On August 9, the plea was deleted from the Supreme Court’s causelist after it was assigned to a bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud instead of another bench already hearing similar matters. The top court had pulled up its officers and sought an explanation for the “wrongful listing”. The matter was subsequently transferred from Chandrachud and listed before a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, which is currently hearing a contempt case against Bhushan.
In their plea, Shourie, Bhushan and N Ram had argued that the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, was against the basic structure of the Constitution. They said that parts of the act “have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and expression” as guaranteed by the Constitution, and asked the Supreme Court to quash these provisions. “...By criminalising criticism of the court in sweeping and absolute terms, the impugned sub-section raises a prior restraint on speech on matters of public and political importance,” the petitioners said.
Bhushan is currently facing two contempt cases in the Supreme Court. One case is related to two tweets posted by him on June 27 and 29. The first tweet commented about “undeclared emergency” in India and the role of the Supreme Court and last four chief justices of India. The second tweet was about Chief Justice SA Bobde trying out a Harley Davidson superbike in his hometown Nagpur. The second case is about Bhushan’s alleged objectionable remarks against Supreme Court judges in an interview to Tehelka magazine in 2009.
On Monday, the top court refused to accept Bhushan’s explanation in the contempt case against him from 2009. A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said further hearing in the case was required and listed the matter for August 17.