Supreme Court judgment on contempt ‘alarming’ and ‘bad precedent’ : Lawyers bodies

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Supreme Court judgment on contempt alarming; Creates bad precedent hampering free speech and fair criticism of judiciary: lawyers bodies

By Abdul Bari Masoud

New Delhi: Prominent lawyers associations on Saturday expressed deep concern and anguish over the judgment of the Supreme Court finding noted advocate and activist, Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt for his two tweets. They warned that the judgment would create a bad precedent hampering free speech and fair criticism of the Supreme Court and the judiciary.

All India Lawyers Union (AILU) said it is very much concerned about the judgment and its negative and chilling impact on bona-fide and fair criticism of the judiciary.  P V Surendranath, General Secretary, AILU, termed the judgment as “alarming and yet another self inflicted wound on the Supreme Court”.

He said it should trigger an informed debate over abolition of the criminal contempt under contempt of court act and undefined unregulated contempt jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 129 of the Constitution of India.

Speaking in the same vein, another lawyers’ body, the All India Lawyers Council (AILC) said Bhushan’s tweets may hardly be called as ‘contemptuous and disdainful’ who has emerged a conscience keeper in a rather gloomy political scenario in the country. Advocate Sharfuddin Ahmad, general secretary, AILC, said   at a time when so-called secular parties are failing, Bhushan has shown courage to speak the truth.

Except communist parties, every party is trying to appease the communal constituency and is vying with each other to placate Brahmins by announcing to erect 108 feet tall statue of Lord Parashuram, he said.

Lauding the courage of Bhushan, Ahmad said he is in the making of JP (Jai Prakash) and he is a rare fearless voice in the country who dares to speak truth for safeguarding the democracy.

While the bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai, and Krishna Murari, in its judgment on Friday held that these tweets had shaken the “very foundation of constitutional democracy”.

In the first tweet which the court found contemptuous, Bhushan said:

“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!”

The bench’s argument about the second tweet, likewise, has no legs to stand on. The text of this tweet reads:

“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.”

Surendranath said these tweets could be termed as only opinion. In the contempt judgment the Supreme Court said that “we are not concerned with the first part of the Tweet since it is not concerned with this Court”.

Court also held “We don’t want to go into the truthfulness or otherwise of the first part of the Tweet in as much as we don’t want to convert these proceedings into a platform for political debate”.

So, ultimately whether there has been destruction of democracy in India during the last six years even without a formal emergency is a political question and political opinion protected by freedom of expression and free speech under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India, by which bona-fide fair criticism of the Supreme Court, its judges and the judiciary is protected, he added.

He said the judgments of the Supreme Court in various milestone cases such as A K Gopalan case, Bank nationalization case, Keshavananda Bharati case, A D M Jabalpur case, Maneka Gandhi case, S R Bommai case, Fourth judges case, Privacy judgment, Aadhar case, Sabarimala case etc. have got immense impact on democracy in India.

Whether the impact is positive or negative is only a matter of opinion and it is rather a political question than juridical, he added.

He further underlined that “Unfortunately the regret expressed by Prashant Bhushan, the contemptner in the Tweet no. 1, by way of clarification that he omitted to notice the fact that the bike was on its stand and not moving is not considered in its proper spirit by holding him guilty for the contempt on this tweet as well.

In statement of P Shiv Sankar’s case, a former judge of High Court and Union Law Minister P Shiv Sankar said that Supreme Court was composed of elements from elite class that because they had their unconcealed sympathy for the haves is held to be not a statement in contempt of court.

Lawyers bodies expressed the hope that the Supreme Court itself would recall the contempt judgment against Prashant Bhushan  by any curative process review or otherwise because  it would cause a chilling effect on free speech and bona-fide and fair criticism of judiciary and the Supreme Court on its role in Indian democracy.

35 COMMENTS

  1. The Supreme court’s verdict if not recalled would be the last nail in the coffin of degenerative faith & freedom in the democratic India.
    & would only elevate rancorousity amon people.

  2. Honourable Supreme Court of India is the highest court of India.

    It gives finality to litigation among parties.

    So no person should give comments on judgements of Honourable Supreme Court of India.

    I think fair judgement of Honourable Judges to hold Prashant bushan guilty.

  3. The judgment is occasioned wholly by extra judicial considerations and is draws subjective inferences . Strong words and laboured style used tells a tell-tale story. It’s actually an act of self-condemnation.

  4. Even it’s not fair to criticize judiciary without sufficient proof. As any layman finds the apex court as utmost justice. On the other hand freedom of speech is being questionable because of this judgement on contempt.

  5. The protesters must realise that their very protest in so many uncertain wards is itself freedom of speech and if too much,would exposes their complicity with the cause of action and harm the contemner

    • Coming real faces of liberals. Till 20th Prashant Bhushan will call support of so called intellectuals. Let us see who else come out of burrow.

      • “BHARATHADA DHEERA VAKEELA”INDIA IS PROUD TO HAVE A BRAVE LAWER LIKE PRASHANTH BHUSHAN THE NATION WILL REMEMBER FOR EVER HIS CONTRIBUTION TO PROTECT THE SUPREMACY, SOVERIEGNITY, INTEGRITY, OF INDIAN JUDICIARY. AILU MANDYA PROUD TO ANNOUNCE AN AWARD TO HIM AS” BHARATHADA DHEERA VAKILA” AILU ALSO CALLS THE NATION TO WAKEUP. B.T. VISHWANATH

  6. When justice chelmeshwar and other judges called media and expressed their opinion relating roster disparity by the then Chief Justice . No co tempt arise . The great legal jurist written a book By nominclature GOD MUST SAVE SUPREME COURT. So these are all only opinions. Moreover contempt arise only disobey the court order if any existence. To seek contempt relief The aggrieved person shall move an application basing on direction given by court. So I strongly believe it the tweets may not come under purview of contempt proceedings.

  7. Supreme court restrict The Freedom ,and also restrict Article 19 Indian Constitution .It us very painful for all Lawyers

  8. It is precedent to the effect that there lawyers show maturity and keep the criticism on the right channel and forum….
    The judges aren’t saying not to take critical view but refrain from mindless use if wrong medium of expression.

    Prashant however is a repeat offender and who better than lawyers to know what it means?

  9. Supreme Court has faulted and snatched away freedom of speech from a person who is daring to challenge establishments for common good of Humnity.

  10. अभिव्यक्ति की स्वतंत्रता और स्वच्छंदता की रेखा स्पष्ट हो जाएगी, अब।

  11. स्वतंत्रता और स्वच्छंदता के बीच की लकीर स्पष्ट होगी।

  12. Judge should understand that criticism not only from Bhushan, it is from the general public.
    Judges should take this opportunity to correct themselves and see that to prevent criticism in future.

  13. This is notice to people who think that they are above institutions, above society, this shows mirror that there is thin line between freedom n responsibility. And everyone must enjoy the freedom but with responsibility to the society and institutions.

  14. Freedom of speech does not mean that you got freedom to speak anything about any one it only means to speak with responsibility

  15. Prashanth bhushan thinks that he is above every court in this country.he deserves highest order punishment, so that no other self styled knowledgeble person dare to speak against judiciary of this great country.

  16. All these illumuneries should go back to school and brush up civics and administration. Every right has a corresponding duty. Every expression has a corresponding responsibility. Question has Prashant followed this. Leave it to the learned people to make their judgement

  17. All these illumuneries should go back to school and brush up civics and administration. Every right has a corresponding duty. Every expression has a corresponding responsibility. Question has Prashant followed this. Leave it to the learned people to make their judgement

  18. The fact that Bhuhsan withdrew part of his allegation midway against the CJ1 on realising its fallacy speaks volumes of his casual way of airing accusation. He should have double sure before spilling the beans. It is not a child’s play. Because it is Mr.Bhushan who has said it has no special significance. There may be ills plagueing judiciary which must be addressed or cured collectively. Throwing aspersions on erstwhile CJIs for whatever reasons would create doubts on the minds of the common man in this country. Bhushan should have that in mind. Having said that it is prudent that the Judiciary have the magnanimity to turn the mirror unto itself to introspect for its own good and for the good of the country’s democracy and justice deliverance

  19. Perfect disision ,we must respect our judiciary system of the country .no one is above the law , General n advocat are equal befor the court jai hind jai bharat

  20. Muslim advocates want to destroy anything Indian origin.
    No word frm them on Bangluru attack by Muslims.
    They want Islamic laws in India.
    With 98% corrupt advocates they r preaching.

  21. It is a black hour in Indian democracy. The supreme authorities are so sensitive they even does not ready to hear any different opinion why they are issue suo moto case against anurag thakur kapil mishra for their languages why they are not call kalyan Singh and punish him for his act at the time of ram mandir destruction
    Why supreme Court mums at the time of Delhi riot and other relevant issues. Moreover any comment to any judge of supreme Court does not consider as contempt of court rather by this act the highest judiciary shows their impatience and intolerance attitudes
    People are scared but they are not fool they understand everything and answer in time. Moreover it is high time for the judges to take positive steps so that at least respect for Judiciary persist

  22. The supreme cuort ought to have considered that the comments made by Mr Bhusan does not attract any conttement of courts act
    And a fair criticism of personal conduct of judge and not related with any judgement
    how that come under the perview of courts of contempt, The citizen of India can not ask from the highest court of law?
    The 2nd Tweet

    what will in future the history say!
    Some instances of recent past which is the subject matter of public doman,has been mentioned,neither it is criticism against the supreme court nor any attempt to scandalise or to lower down the dignity,decorum of the supreme court and
    as an advocate made such commens which public is saying it is justified.

    It is expected rectifification any wrong from the judiciary,if therebe any through proper process would be rectified and till such time no punishment would be awardwed

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