Lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan was held guilty of contempt this Friday, for his two disparaging tweets against the judiciary, primarily the Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde, and the Supreme Court. The three-judge bench comprised of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai, and Krishna Murari. Justice Arun Mishra, who headed the bench announced that there would be a hearing on August 20, regarding the contention on the quantum of sentence to be granted to Prashant Bhushan in the matter.
The apex court believed that Bhushan’s tweets are based on distorted facts and amount to committing of criminal contempt. The tweets are prejudiced criticism of the functioning of judiciary made in public interest. The offending and malicious allegations have the tendency to scandalise the court and was not expected to be made by a person, who is a lawyer of 30 years standing.
“Indian judiciary is not only one of pillars on which Indian democracy stands but is the central pillar. An attempt to shake the very foundation of constitutional democracy has to be dealt with an iron hand. The tweet has the effect of destabilising the very foundation of this important pillar of Indian democracy. Fearless and impartial courts of justice are the bulwark of a healthy democracy and the confidence in them cannot be permitted to be impaired by malicious attacks upon them,” the Supreme Court said.
Mr. Bhushan’s major argument was that by exercising freedom of speech and giving his opinion about the working of the court, he did not cause any obstruction to justice, which necessitated the contempt proceedings. Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave representing Prashant Bhushan, in the last hearing, maintained that the two tweets were not against judiciary as an institution but against the judges in their personal capacity regarding their conduct. He emphasised that they are not malicious and do not obstruct the administration of justice.
“To bona fide critique the actions of a Chief Justice or a succession of Chief Justices cannot and does not scandalise the court, nor does it lower the authority of the court,” said Bhushan, in a 142-page reply affidavit.