The Supreme Court on Wednesday initiated contempt proceedings against activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan over two of his tweets that he posted on June 27 and June 29th. The court said that these had “brought the administration of justice in disrepute”.
A three-judge SC bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra and also included Justices BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, issued notice to Bhushan to respond by August 5.
The complaint against Bhushan was registered over a June 29 tweet by him on a photo of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde astride a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
CJI rides a 50 Lakh motorcycle belonging to a BJP leader at Raj Bhavan Nagpur, without a mask or helmet, at a time when he keeps the SC in Lockdown mode denying citizens their fundamental right to access Justice! pic.twitter.com/PwKOS22iMz
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) June 29, 2020
The bench also issued notice to Attorney General KK Venugopal and sought a reply from Twitter Incorporated, USA. It directed that the matter be listed again for hearing on August 5.
The registration of the suo motu contempt case against Prashant Bhushan stems from a petition filed by Mahek Maheshwari, an advocate based at Guna in Madhya Pradesh, seeking contempt action against both him and Twitter India.
Maheshwari had termed Prashant Bhushan’s other tweet, posted on June 29, as “inhuman” especially when, according to Maheshwari, the CJI and the other judges had been sacrificing their vacations and using video conferencing to satisfy the litigants, according to Bar and Bench.
The bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, which began hearing the matter Wednesday, said: “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.”
The bench also issued notices to Twitter Inc (and not Twitter India, as the court had impleaded earlier), which was allowed to file an application in the case. Earlier, Twitter Inc’s senior counsel, Sajan Poovayya, promised the bench that it would disable Prashant Bhushan’s controversial tweet, if ordered by the court.
Poovayya also told the bench that he did not defend the tweet, as reported by LiveLaw.
While taking up the matter for hearing, the bench also took note of another tweet by Bhushan on June 27 regarding the judiciary which it said was published Wednesday in The Times of India.
When historians in future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction, & more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) June 27, 2020
“We take suo motu cognizance of the aforesaid tweet also apart from the tweet quoted above and suo motu register the proceedings,” the bench said.
Currently, Bhushan is appearing in the Supreme Court for the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, seeking transfer of PM Cares funds to the National Disaster Response Fund. He also represents the Association for Democratic Reforms in a petition challenging the Electoral Bond Scheme.
The top court will also take up on July 24 another contempt matter against Bhushan and former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal. The 2009 matter pertains to statements by Bhushan against former Chief Justices in an interview to Tehelka.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, who was amicus curiae in the 2009 matter, had submitted a report, drawing the court’s attention to the alleged statements. Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani had represented Bhushan in the matter. Jethmalani passed away last year.