Bhushan and sympathisers launch multi-pronged response to contempt proceedings

NEW DELHI: Ahead of the Supreme Court’s hearing on contempt proceedings against Prashant Bhushan for his alleged ‘contemptuous’ remarks against present and former CJIs, he and his sympathisers have launched a multi-pronged response to dissuade the court from going ahead with the contempt cases.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari on July 22 had initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against Bhushan for his tweets – one accusing the CJI of riding a stationary heavy bike without mask or helmet while keeping the courts under lockdown to denying right to access to justice to citizens; and the other attributing role to four former CJIs in the alleged destruction of democracy in the last six years of undeclared emergency. Further hearing in this case is scheduled for August 5.
On July 24, the same bench had asked Bhushan to be prepared on August 4 to defend the 2009 contempt proceedings drawn against him for insinuating that half of 16 former CJIs were corrupt. It had refused to adjourn hearing on this old case till September or when the physical hearing in court resumed. Justice Mishra retires on September 2.
On July 27, a statement was released by 131 persons, many of whom were in the past represented by Bhushan in court, expressing solidarity with the activist lawyer and criticising the SC for taking recourse to contempt proceedings for his tweets. Later, Bhushan’s office said 10 former Judges of the SC and HCs have endorsed the statement by the 131 persons.
Next, a petition in SC was filed jointly by N Ram, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan challenging the constitutional validity of Section 2(c)(i) of the Contempt of Court Act, which made “publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which scandalises or tend to scandalise or lower or tends to lower the authority of any court” an offence.
The trio, who had come together along with Yashwant Sinha to question the Rafale fighter jet purchase deal in 2018, in their petition through advocate Kamini Jaiswal said the provision violated a person’s right to free speech guaranteed under Article 19 and right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
On Saturday, Bhushan himself filed another writ petition through Jaiswal seeking stay of the suo motu contempt proceedings initiated on July 22. He faulted the SC Registry for listing before the bench a contempt petition which had no approval from either the attorney general or the solicitor general, as needed under the Contempt of Court Act. He said since the petition itself was defective and could not have been listed before the court, the initiation of suo motu proceedings too was afflicted by the defect. He sought a stay on these proceedings.
He also sought dropping of the 2009 contempt proceedings against him saying these proceedings had a chilling effect on his right to free speech and in fact, violated his right to free speech guaranteed under Article 19.
On Saturday, Bhushan’s office said that the statement of 131 persons expressing solidarity with the activist lawyer has now been endorsed by former Judges of the SC – Justices Ruma Pal, G S Singhvi, Ashok K Ganguly, Gopala Gowda, Aftab Alam, J Chelameswar, Vikramjit Sen and Madan Lokur. It also said that former HC judges A P Shah and Anjana Prakash too have endorsed the Bhushan-solidarity statement.

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