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SC doesn’t accept Prashant Bhushan’s regret over corruption remark against judiciary, decides to hear case

The contempt case involves statements that Prashant Bhushan made during an interview to Tehelka magazine in 2009, in which he said half the 16 Chief Justices of India were corrupt.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to accept the expression of regret by lawyer Prashant Bhushan in a 11-year-old contempt case against him and noted that it will continue to hear the matter.

Posting the matter for further hearing on August 17, the top court said that it will hear in detail whether any comment on corruption against judges tantamount to contempt of court or not, adding that it will hear the 2009 contempt case against lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said that it has decided to hear whether the remarks made by Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan against the higher judiciary in a Tehelka magazine interview is “per se contempt”.

The contempt case involves statements that Prashant Bhushan made during an interview to Tehelka magazine in 2009, in which he said half the 16 Chief Justices of India were corrupt.

Last week, the apex court had said it would go on to hear the case if “we do not accept the explanation/apology of Bhushan”.

On August 4, the Supreme Court had said it had not received the apology submitted by Bhushan and reserved its order in the 2009 contempt case against him.

A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari had said: “We have heard the counsel for the parties at some length. Explanation/apology submitted by Prashant Bhushan/Respondent No. 1 and Tarun Tejpal/Respondent No. 2 have not been received so far.”

The bench added: “In case we do not accept the explanation/apology, we will hear the matter. We reserve the order.”

The apex court, while hearing the case, had also observed that “there is a thin line between free speech and contempt, adding that the issue now is how to save the system’s grace and bring the matter to an end as well.”

The Supreme Court bench also asked Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan, representing Bhushan, to suggest ways to resolve this matter.

On July 22, the Supreme Court had issued notices to advocate Prashant Bhushan and Twitter Inc on the alleged contemptuous remarks on judiciary posted on Twitter.

The bench questioned Twitter why it can’t disable the tweets on its own even after a contempt proceeding has been initiated.

The apex court initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against Bhushan for publishing two tweets, the first tweet, which was posted on June 27 alleged that the last four Chief Justices had played a role in the “destruction of democracy” during undeclared “emergency” for last six years.

“When historians in future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction, & more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs”, said the tweet by Bhushan.

And the second tweet on June 29 allegedly said the present Chief Justice rode a stationary bike at Nagpur while keeping the apex court in lockdown and denying citizens their right to access to justice.

Bhushan has long been raising issues pertaining to judiciary and had recently been vocal of the way in which the top court had handled matters related to migrant workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also made statements relating to the treatment meted out to jailed activists like Varavara Rao and Sudha Bharadwaj who are accused in Bhima-Koregaon case.

Over the past decade, Bhushan has been instrumental in raising several issues touching upon corruption in high places – from the 2G scam to Rafale, the medical college scam and the Birla-Sahara diaries.