The Supreme Court on Friday found lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of Contempt of Court in the suo motu case against him related to two tweets posted by him on June 27 and 29, reported Live Law. The hearing on the quantum of punishment will be held on August 20.
Justice BR Gavai, who read out the ruling, noted that Bhushan had committed “serious contempt”.
The court said the magnanimity of judges cannot be stretched to the extent that it “may amount to weakness in dealing with a malicious, scurrilous, calculated attack” on the judiciary, reported News18. The bench made the observations as a response to Bhushan’s submission that the judges needed to be magnanimous and not use Contempt of Court against remarks on individual judges or fair criticism.
The court further noted that allegations against the Supreme Court may lead to loss of faith in the judiciary and of confidence among other judges. “A possibility of the other judges getting an impression that they may not stand protected from malicious attacks, when the Supreme Court has failed to protect itself from malicious insinuations, cannot be ruled out,” the bench said in its 108-page order. “As such, in order to protect the larger public interest, such attempts of attack on the highest judiciary of the country should be dealt with firmly.”
The judges referred to one of Bhushan’s tweets and said that it was known that the period of Emergency in the country was the “blackest era in the history of Indian democracy”.
Bhushan’s tweet had commented about an “undeclared emergency” in India and the role of the Supreme Court and last four chief justices of India. Another tweet was about Chief Justice SA Bobde trying out a Harley Davidson superbike in his hometown Nagpur.
Referring to the tweet on Emergency, the court on Friday said it gave the impression that democracy had been destroyed in India in the last six years, and the “Supreme Court had a particular role in the said destruction”. They said the allegations against the top court had to be tackled with firmness as it could affect the “national honour and prestige in the comity of nations”.
The Supreme Court had initiated suo motu criminal contempt proceedings against advocate Prashant Bhushan and social media platform Twitter India on July 21. The next day, the top court issued notices to Bhushan and Attorney General KK Venugopal for the lawyer’s alleged derogatory tweets against the judiciary.
A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari had reserved judgement in the case on August 5.
Bhushan said that his tweet about the last four chief justices was his “bonafide impression” about them. The advocate added that it was his opinion that the top court had allowed the democracy to be destroyed. Bhushan said that even though his personal views were “outspoken, disagreeable or unpalatable”, they couldn’t count as contempt.
The advocate said that his tweet about Bobde, on the other hand, was to “express my anguish at the non physical functioning of the Supreme Court for the last more than three months, as a result of which the fundamental rights of citizens were not being addressed or taken up for redressal”.
Bhushan is facing another contempt case from 2009, which relates to his alleged objectionable remarks against Supreme Court judges in an interview to Tehelka magazine. The contempt of court case was filed by advocate Harish Salve. On Monday, the top court had refused to accept Bhushan’s explanation in the matter. A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said further hearing in the case was required and listed the matter for August 17.