The Supreme Bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari on Monday refused to accept the explanation issued by lawyer Prashant Bhushan in the 2009 contempt case. The court said that it will start hearing on 16 August to ascertain if his comments made during an interview with the Tehelka magazine amounted to contempt of court.
The Supreme Court in its last hearing had said that it will hear the matter in detail in the event that it did not find Bhushan’s explanation satisfactory.
In his statement, issued by Bhushan’s office, the lawyer had expressed regrets but not apologised for his comments made during the Tehelka interview. Bhushan had said that, in his interview to Tehelka, he had used the word corruption ‘meaning lack of propriety,’ adding that he did not mean ‘only financial corruption or deriving any pecuniary advantage.’ He had added that he ‘regrets’ his comments if they ’caused hurt to any of them or to their families in any way.’
Bhushan had added, “I unreservedly state that I support the institution of the judiciary and especially the Supreme Court of which I am a part, and had no intention to lower the prestige of the judiciary in which I have complete faith. I regret if my interview was misunderstood as doing so, that is, lower the reputation of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, which could never have been my intention at all.”
The Supreme Court took up the case against Bhushan suo motu on the basis of a complaint filed by lawyer Harish Salve. According to the complaint, Salve has accused Bhushan of calling at least half of the last 16 Chief Justices of India of corrupt in 2009, during his interview with Tarun Tejpal of Tehelka.
The same Bench of the Supreme Court is also hearing another contempt case against Bhushan for his tweets made against four former Chief Justices of India and current CJI SA Bobde. Representing him, senior lawyer Dushyant Dave had recently made explosive arguments. Dave had sought to draw the Bench’s attention to the wide perception about the lack of integrity of former CJI Tarun Gogoi.
Meanwhile, a petition by journalist N Ram, former Union Minister Arun Shourie and Bhushan was deleted from the cause list of the Supreme Court. The petition challenged the constitutionality of the contempt law, which deals with criminal contempt on the pretext of scandalising or lowering the authority of courts.