Prashant Bhushan held guilty of contempt for tweets against CJI
The Supreme Court has held noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty for his tweets crticising CJI Sharad J. Bobde and the CJI office.
A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on Friday found civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court.
The Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra fixed the sentence hearing on August 20.
The court had taken suo motu contempt action against the noted civil rights lawyer for his tweet on a photograph of Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde astride a bike and another about the SC’s functioning in the past six years. The court, while initiating contempt proceedings against the lawyer, said the two tweets had undermined the authority of the court and dignity of the CJI’s office.
Justice B.R. Gavai, after reading the operative portion of the judgment in a virtual court hearing, asked Mr. Bhushan’s lawyer and senior advocate Dushyant Dave when he wanted the hearing on the sentencing part to start.
“We find you (Mr. Bhushan) guilty of contempt. We will hear you on the sentence,” Justice Gavai addressed Mr. Dave.
“We need time to prepare…” Mr. Dave replied.
“What do you need, a week?” Justice Gavai asked.
The court and the lawyer settled for August 20.
The Contempt of Court Act of 1971 punishes with imprisonment that may extend to six months or fine of ₹2000 or both.
Mr. Bhushan has maintained that the tweets amounted to “criticism” and not contempt. The court had reserved its judgment on August 5 after hearing extensive arguments made by Mr. Dave.
“If citizens stand up and criticise the system, say everything is not hunky-dory, how can it be contempt?” Mr. Dave had asked.
He said hundreds of people had tweeted the photograph of Chief Justice Bobde on the motorbike.
“There are many amusing tweets by others… Is the court going to call them all in?” Mr. Dave had asked.
He had argued that Mr. Bhushan’s tweets were driven by anguish. He referred to how sections of the media generated hate against the members of the Tablighi Jamaat who got sick. He submitted that certain recent cases required a timely healing touch from the Supreme Court.
He had highlighted the numerous public interest causes brought to court by Mr. Bhushan. “There was no malice (in the tweets). We want the court to be stronger. It is our duty to correct the errors made in some issues,” Mr. Dave had said.
He argued that the right to dissent and free speech could not be controlled by contempt proceedings.
“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,” Mr. Dave had submitted.