Prashant Bhushan found guilty of contempt of court
The Supreme Court went after lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan for two tweets that reportedly spoke Prashant Bhushanof the judiciary.
In a culmination of the show cause notice the apex court had issued on July 22 against Prashant Bhushan, it pronounced him guilty of criminal contempt of court for two of his tweets against the Chief Justice of India. Even though Bhushan had defended his right to the tweets saying they were against the conduct of the judge in his personal capacity and did not obstruct the administration of justice, the 108-page judgement pronounced him guilty. The quantum of his sentence will be decided on August 20, pending arguments.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari called the tweets false and malicious, saying freedom of speech must be restricted to the boundaries prescribed under Article 19(2). If a citizen, while exercising their freedom of speech under Article 19(1), exceed their limits and makes a statement scandalising the judge and the judiciary, they would be held liable to contempt of court. The judgement also said that undermining the dignity and authority of the court or shaking public confidence in the judicial institution would also come under the ambit of criminal content.
In the tweets, Bhushan had accused the CJI of being among the four chief justices who played a role in the destruction of democracy over the past six years and also pointed out that he was riding a 50-lakh bike owned by a BJP politician while keeping the Supreme Court closed, thereby denying justice to thousands of people during the lockdown.
The judges noted that the courts were never closed. While physical hearings were suspended, various benches were discharging their duties via video conferencing. Between March 23 and August 4, the court had heard 12,748 cases including 686 writ petitions. Many of these were argued by Bhushan himself, the judgement said. The bench also did not take kindly to Bhushan’s other tweet, saying it gives the impression that even without a formal Emergency, democracy was being destroyed in India, that the Supreme Court had a special role in this and that the CJIs specifically were implicated. They said instead of upholding the majesty of the law and acting like a responsible officer of the court, Bhushan indulged in an act that had brought it disrepute. They added that they expected better out of a lawyer of 30 years’ standing.