The Supreme Court on Friday held lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt for his tweets criticising Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and previous Chief Justices of India. The Supreme Court Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari has fixed 20 August for the hearing on the sentencing.
The court in its order said, “In the result, we hold alleged contemnor No.1 – Mr.
Prashant Bhushan guilty of having committed criminal contempt of this Court.” Under the Contempt of Court Act 1997, a person is liable to be punished with imprisonment of up to six months of fine of Rs 2,000 or both.
Delivering the verdict, Justice Mishra said that Bhushan had committed ‘serious contempt’ of the court.
[Also Read: “Rafale judgment, Ayodhya judgment, CBI judgment. You get Rajya Sabha seat and Z plus security. What impression does it give?”: Dushyant Dave makes explosive arguments for Prashant Bhushan in contempt case]
The Supreme Court had initiated a suo motu contempt proceedings against Bhushan for his two tweets raising questions on the integrity of the judiciary by highlighting the conduct of previous four CJIs. In another tweet posted on 29 June, Bhushan had targeted CJI SA Bobde for riding a Harley Davidson bike in Nagpur without wearing a mask.
Bhushan’s lawyer Dushyant Dave had maintained that the two tweets by Bhushan had amounted to criticism and not the contempt. Dave 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 drew 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.
Twitter had blocked the tweets posted by Bhushan after the Supreme Court initiated contempt proceedings against him. Both tweets are not blocked with a standard message reading in its place, “This Tweet from @pbhushan1 has been withheld in IN in response to a legal demand.”
Ironically, the same Supreme Court bench, while hearing a matter on the rebellion in the Congress, had said that voices of dissent cannot be suppressed in a democracy.