New Delhi: Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan has been held guilty of contempt for his two tweets on Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and the Supreme Court. Sentencing is on August 20. A three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari delivered the verdict on Bhushan’s tweets.
Justice B R Gavai, reading out the judgment, observed that Bhushan committed “serious contempt of the Court”.
The bench will hear him on sentence on August 20.
The bench had reserved judgment in the case on August 5 after elaborately hearing Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave for Bhushan.
Dave submitted that Bhushan was airing only bona fide criticism against the judiciary without any malice. Dave also submitted that there were several shortcomings in the functioning of the judiciary, which warranted Bhushan’s criticism.
The guilty can be punished with a simple imprisonment for a term which may extend up to six months or with a fine of up to Rs 2,000 or with both.
The Supreme Court initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against Bhushan for allegedly making derogatory comments against the top court on June 27 in a tweet that alleged that the last four Chief Justices had played a role in the “destruction of democracy” during undeclared “emergency” for the last six years. Another tweet on June 29 alleged that the “present Chief Justice” rode bike in Nagpur “while keeping the apex court in lockdown and denying citizens their right to access to justice”.
“We are, prima facie, of the view that the aforesaid statements on Twitter have brought the administration of justice in disrepute and are capable of undermining the dignity and authority of the Institution of Supreme Court in general and the office of the Chief Justice of India in particular, in the eyes of public at large,” said the court in its order.
Bhushan filed a detailed reply affidavit to the contempt notice, stating that expression of bona fide opinion about the Court cannot amount to contempt.
As regards his tweet about Chief Justice of India, S A Bobde, seated on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, Bhushan said in the affidavit that his comment was to underline his anguish at the non-physical functioning of the Supreme Court for the last more than three months, “as a result of which fundamental rights of citizens, such as those in detention, those destitute and poor, and others facing serious and urgent grievances were not being addressed or taken up for redressal”.
As regards the tweet about the role of SC in the “destruction of democracy” and the “role of last 4 CJIs” in that, Bhushan says that it was his “bonafide impression” about them and it is his considered opinion that SC allowed the destruction of democracy and such expression of opinion however “outspoken, disagreeable or unpalatable” can’t constitute contempt.