Janhastakshep takes serious note of the news of the contempt of the court case initiated by the Supreme Court against the well-known lawyer and human rights activist Prashant Bhushan for his comments on tweeter. This unfortunate news is a matter of serious concern to any democratic minded person. This is to bbe noted that the Supreme Court has taken Suo Motu cognizance of the matter and showing extra-ordinary concern has constituted a bench of three judges to look into it. The bench has arrived at the prime-facie conclusion that the said tweeter comments contain the contempt against judicial process and undermine the dignity and the authority of the Supreme Court, particularly of the CJI in the eyes of the people.

The three judge’s bench referred to Bhushan’s 2 comments.  The first is regarding the CJI riding the BJP leader’s bike of Rs. 50 lakh cost in the Rajbhavan premises at Nagpur without the mask and the helmet at a time when the Supreme Court is locked down depriving the citizens of availing justice.

The charge leveled by the bench is based on Times of India news quoting a tweet by Bhushan on 27th June, 2020 that says that when the historians would focus on the history of past 6 years, they would ponder about the destruction of democracy without imposition of emergency and would underline the role of Supreme court in it, particularly of the last four CJIs.

There is enough scope of disagreement with or critique of Bhushan’s comments within the democratic domain but it is difficult to comprehend the obstruction caused by bthese comments in the process of justice. In the development of democracy it has been well established that the scope of initiating na case of the contempt of court emanates from physically or violently obstructing the judicial process in the court. The freedom of expression is a fundamental principle of democracy, which can be limited only on reasonable grounds. The logic of obstruction of justice or judicial process by comments on platforms of public domain like tweeter is beyond comprehension. This view that such comments undermine the dignity or the authority of the judiciary or the judge, defies the logic.

Prashant Bhushan’s comments on the CJI is in no way related to the judicial process or the judicial conduct. The role of Supreme Court and some former CJIs in the deterioration of democracy in India is of general nature and such views have been expressed by many in the public discourse, including former SC judges.

The public debates and critiques of the controversial judgments by courts should not be curved or banned in a healthy democracy. The SC should keep in mind the proverb – ‘the sunlight is the best disinfectant. Quoting here a comment by the former Justice Krishna Iyer of Supreme Court shall not be out of place. “The best answer to abuse of judges is not frequent or ferocious contempt-sentencing but fine performance”.

(https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/Against-abuse-of-the-contempt-power/article16207436.ece)

Janhastakshep sincerely appeals that according due respect to the right to dissent and freedom of expression the Supreme Court should withdraw the Suo Motu contempt proceedings against Prashant Bhushan. We believe that the right to freedom of expression and speech as enshrined in Article 19 (1) of the constitution id inalienable right of every Indian attained by the protracted freedom struggles. Right to dissent is integral part of democracy. We are of the considered opinion that the contempt of court proceedings should be initiated in the extra ordinary cases of the physical obstruction of justice.

Every democratic system and institution continuously evolves. The instances of contempt cases in developed democracies are rare. India too needs appropriate amendments in Contempt of Court Act, 1971.

Sd

Ish Mishra (Convener)

Vikas Bajpai (Co-Convener)

Janhastakshep: A campaign against fascist designs


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One Comment

  1. Avatar Velaiuthapillai Rajandran says:

    All Lawyers wishes the Court to give verdicts in favour of their client. But no one can threaten the Court to give judgements in their favour, Prasanth Boosan always expects verdicts in his favour, otherwise he creates an image the Judges are biased and they are at the dictate of the Government. In the name of freedom you cannot utter anything and everything and thereby poison the mind of ordinary People. With Seniority one expects more maturity and not more esteem.. Every word uttered has consequences