Attorney General KK Venugopal on Sunday refused to give consent for the initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against advocate Prashant Bhushan for a tweet against Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, reported Live Law.
In a tweet on October 21, Bhushan wrote: “The CJI avails a special chopper provided by the MP Govt (authorised by the CM) for a visit to Kanha National Park and then to his home town in Nagpur, while an important case of disqualification of defecting MLAs of MP is pending before him. Survival of MP govt depends on this case.”
Venugopal said that Bhushan had “expressed regret” for his remarks. Advocate Sunil Singh’s request seeking contempt proceedings against Bhushan said that the “personal life of CJI SA Bobde” was connected with a pending case.
“In common law jurisdictions, perhaps the most significant role of contempt of court law is the application of the sub judice rule: no one should interfere with legal proceedings which are pending,” Singh’s letter read, according to Bar and Bench. It also noted that Bhushan’s tweet was published in many newspapers and that it “scandalises the Supreme Court, prejudices and interferes with the due course of judicial proceedings and administrations of justice”.
However, Venugopal responded that it would not be in public interest to give consent for “proceeding on the basis of the original tweet in view of the subsequent tweet” on November 4. “In this subsequent tweet...he has expressed regret for the error made in his earlier tweet....” Venugopal said, according to Live Law. “He has stated publicly that it was incorrect to state that the fate of the Government of Madhya Pradesh depended on the case pending before the Chief Justice of India.”
Venugopal noted that the CJI is the highest constitutional functionary and that the Madhya Pradesh State Guest Rules, 2011, mandate that he be accorded facilities under it. He also said that the region has been affected because of Maoists, which was the reason Bobde was given a helicopter.
Contempt cases against Prashant Bhushan
Bhushan is already facing contempt of court cases. In one case, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt on August 14 and ordered him to either pay Re 1 as fine or spend three years in jail.
This case case against Bhushan was based on two tweets from June. In one tweet, he made a remark about an undeclared emergency and the role of the 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 during the coronavirus outbreak.
While Bhushan paid the fine, he has filed two review petitions. The first review plea on September 14 had challenged the August 14 verdict convicting him for the contempt of court. The second plea is against the August 31 sentencing order which imposed the fine.
The advocate is also facing another contempt case. It relates to an interview Bhushan gave to the Tehelka magazine in 2009, in which he made allegations of corruption in the Supreme Court and said that half of the previous 16 chief justices were corrupt. On September 10, the top court had sought assistance from Attorney General KK Venugopal in case and deferred the hearing to October 12.