In an extraordinary development, the petition by journalist N Ram, former Union Minister Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan has been deleted from the cause list of the Supreme Court. This, according to the Bar and Bench website, was after the Supreme Court Registry pulled up its officers for assigning it to a Bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud and not Justice Arun Mishra.
According to the Livelaw website, the reason cited for deleting the case from the Bench headed by Justice Chandrachud was that it violated the standard procedures, adding that ‘as per established practise the petition should have been listed before the bench (headed by Arun Mishra) which is already seized of the matter.’
However, many former SC judges and other legal experts have said that listing the plea by Ram, Shourie and Bhushan did not violate the procedure.
The Justice Mishra-led Bench had started suo motu contempt proceedings against Bhushan. The case was heard earlier last week and the Bench has reserved its order in the case after lawyer Dushyant Dave made explosive arguments while representing Bhushan.
A report by Bar and Bench said that the Supreme Court Registry, the administrative head, had called the senior level assistant and the Deputy Registrar Rank officers for questioning. They were hauled up for not posting the case challenging the constitutionality of the Contempt of Courts act before the Justice Arun Mishra led-Bench.
On 1 August, Senior journalist N Ram, former BJP minister Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan had moved the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the contempt law, which deals with criminal contempt on the pretext of scandalising or lowering the authority of courts.
According to Livelaw, the petition filed through lawyer Kamini Jaiswal, had read, “The impugned sub-section is unconstitutional as it is incompatible with preambular values and basic feature of the Constitution. It violates Article 1 (a), is unconstitutional and incurably vague, and is manifestly arbitrary.”
Last week, Supreme Court lawyer Dushyant Dave had made explosive arguments while appearing for Prashant Bhushan in the contempt case. He had raised the issue of widespread perception about the lack of integrity of the judiciary under certain judges including the former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi. Dave had drawn the court’s attention to several high-profile politically sensitive judgments where the judiciary had seemingly let itself down. Referring to Gogoi, he asked what impression the former CJI had created for the judiciary by accepting a Rajya Sabha nomination and Z plus security cover after his judgments favoured the central government in several cases such as Rafale, Ayodhya and the CBI.
In April this year, the Supreme Court had seen an interesting exchange of words between Bhushan and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul on the erosion of faith in the Indian judiciary. This was during the hearing on the movement of migrant workers amidst the nationwide lockdown. Bhushan, who was appearing on behalf of the petitioners, had argued that the central government was not enforcing the fundamental rights of migrant workers, who remained stuck in various parts of the country during the lockdown period.
But before the hearing could commence, Justice Kaul had asked Bhushan, “You don’t have faith on us. How can we hear you? An order can always be criticised.”
Bhushan had replied, “I have never said that I have no faith in this institution. I only expressed my views. Some retired judges are also saying the same thing. The court is accepting whatever the government is stating without verifying.”
The questionable role of the Supreme Court has been dominating social media conversations in the last few years.