Supreme Court: “This is criticism… Why don’t you take it objectively?” asked senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for advocate Prashant Bhushan, in the suo motu contempt petition initiated by the Supreme Court against Advocate Bhushan.
The matter deals with certain tweets made by Bhushan. He had recently criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets which prompted the Supreme Court to initiate suo motu contempt petition against him. Here are the tweets:
Stating that the right to dissent and free speech cannot be controlled by contempt proceedings, Dave told a 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, JJ that
“Contempt is to be used sparingly and only for administration of justice. If a judge is defamed, he should seek relief in the ordinary laws of defamation,”
He further submitted that a sitting judge, who went on to become a CJI, had ‘criticised’ the functioning of the Supreme Court in a presser in January 2018. Justice Ranjan Gogoi, one of the four judges who had met the media, went on to become the 46th Chief Justice and Justice Bobde’s immediate predecessor. Dave, in his submission said,
“The holding of January 2018 press conference was fully justified. If the then CJI was not listening to their points, what could they do? If citizens stand up and criticise the system, say everything is not hunky-dory, how can it be contempt?”
The Court has reserved the judgment.
In January, 2018, the senior most judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice J. Chelameswar, along with Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Jospeh, held a press conference at his residence to put an end to the speculations making rounds over the differences between the judges and the then Chief Justice of India, Justice Dipak Misra, over the assignment of cases.
A letter addressed to the then CJI Justice Dipak Misra by the aforementioned judges stated:
“There have been instances where case having far-reaching consequences for the Nation and the institution had been assigned by the Chief Justices of this Court selectively to the benches “of their preference” without any rationale basis for such assignment. This must be guarded against at all costs. We are not mentioning details only to avoid embarrassing the institution but note that such departures have already damaged the image of this institution to some extent.”
[In Re Prashant Bhushan, SMC (Crl.) No. 1/2020, order dated 05.08.2020]
(With inputs from The Hindu)