PRASHANT BHUSHAN: CONTEMPT OF COURT
The Author of this blog is Ms. Mauli Bisen, a student of 2nd year at LNCT University, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
In 1983 the
statement “Criticism of the judiciary in all functional democracies is treated
as a legitimate exercise of free speech” was made in context of the British
Judicial Establishment in India. Affront the judges and questioning the
judiciary was reviewed as obstruction to the administration of justice.
Nevertheless, over the past 80 years this law has been practised in England.
So, the law commission suggested its abolition in 2012. Through the Crime and
Courts Acts 2013 it took place. According to the commission, this law violates
the right to freedom of expression and this can’t be retained unless a strong
justified principle lies with it. Also, that the conditions for committing this
offence are uncertain. However, in English jurisprudence insulting judiciary is
unkind and unacceptable but the criticism for the public interest in good faith
is not an offence.
the different authorities should be the social norm in this era. However due to
the person holding several rights for the protection of civil liberties and
holding on to the several institutions of powers, things have changed entirely.
Now in India
there were two tweets made by the lawyer Prashant Bhushan
June, with the reference to the picture of CJI SA Bobde sitting on a Harley
Davidson, presumed that the CJI had kept the Supreme Court under lockdown and
enjoying the expensive bike rides[i].
a month on 21 July 2020, a petition was filed in Supreme Court by Mahek
Maheshwari. As there was no consent of the Solicitor General or Attorney
General so the registry placed this petition on the apex side of court to
decide if it should be listed for hearing or not.
absence of consent from Attorney General under rule 3, the petition was not
maintainable. Under rule 3(a) Supreme Court took power of Suo Moto and the apex
court called it defective petition and it was compounded. Henceforth,
converting the petition which comes under rule 3(c) to the rule 3(c) Suo moto
petition was improper. The consciousness step taken by the supreme court was
section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971[iii],
supreme court and high court are enabled to consciousness Suo moto or on the
motion consented by Solicitor General. Henceforth, under section 15(1)(b)[iv] it
is not permitted to convert a petition into a Suo motu petition.
June there was another tweet by lawyer Prashant Bhushan about the faith in
judicial transparency and the working of 4 CJIs. On 22 July 2020 the Mahek’s
petition was listed in the supreme court and it reappeared in the newspaper. To
the second tweet, the apex court took Suo moto cognizance under section 3(a)[v] of
the Contempt of the Supreme Court,1975 which is a sustainable procedure.
the tweets there was judgement of 108 pages which runs through the copious
extract of Indian and English judgements.
constitution provides everyone the right to freedom of expression. India is the
signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, so this
right is not only a safeguard to Indian Constitution. It compels to everyone to
provide rights to express their ideas and information. Nevertheless, it is an
absolute with restrictions of the limits where it is mandatory to respect every
citizen and their rights. In the very same manner lawyers are entitled to
belief, and expression. Particularly, they have rights to involve in the public
discussions or matters concerning law and it also includes the criticism
related to the working of law.
in this case the Supreme Court in order to this hate speech failed whether it
degrades or it scandalizes the authority of the court. That either it is a criticism
or it can hurt the constitutional democracy. Therefore, in this case the
proceedings were conducted straight away without any relevance with his speech
or with the evidence that he created. This is important to set an example that
any person is simply not allowed to question the court.
This was not
for the first time. In 2009 there was a case against Prashant Bhushan for
contempt of court. In 2009 in an interview with Tehelka magazine he alleged
former CJI SH Kapadia and KG Balakrishnan[vi]. He
also alleged that the 16 preceding i.e. half of the preceding are corrupt. The
petition was filed against this by Harish Salve and the Supreme Court took Suo
moto cognizance. It has been heard 17 times till now by the bench of three
judges. The apex found this maintainable on 10 November 2010 by the panel of
Court asked Prashant Bhushan for an unconditional apology by saying “we have
given many opportunities to express the regrets and he has not tweeted but
given interviews to the press”. Prashant Bhushan also in his statement said
that open criticism is important to protect democracy and its value. According
to the supreme court this statement was to influence independent judicial
function having said that the freedom of expression is important but others
rights should be respected[viii].
argument the supreme court said that the freedom of expression is not an
absolute right. And you may do a hundred good things but it won’t give you
licence to do ten bad things.
On 4 August
2020 the bench said, such kinds of comments are hurting the dignity of the
judges and the court and are not sustainable. It needs to be put to an end.
On the last
hearing Supreme Court fined Prashant Bhushan to rs1 by 15 September. Failure to
do so, would result in 3 months jail and debarment from law practice for 3
[i]Twitter.com › pbhushan1 Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) | Twitter
[ii]Indiankanoon.org › search › formIn...Suo moto review – Indian Kanoonp
[iii]Indiankanoon.org › doc, Web results The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 – Indian Kanoon
[iv]Indiankanoon.org › doc, Section 15(1)(b) in the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 – Indian Kanoon
[v]Indiankanoon.org › doc, Section 3(1) in the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 – Indian Kanoon
[vi]Indiankanoon.org › doc, Shri Prashant Bhushan vs Deputy Commissioner Police ... – Indian Kanoon
[vii]www.thehindu.com › nationalSupreme Court defers 2009 contempt case against Prashant Bhushan to ...
Prashant Bhushan vs Incorrect Or That The on 31 August, 2020