On Friday, the Supreme Court reportedly fixed the hearing of a decade-old contempt case against advocate Prashant Bhushan on August 4. The apex court also refused to make his father Shanti Bhushan, a party in the court proceeding.
In an interview with the Soma Chowdhury of Tehelka in September 2009, Prashant Bhushan had insinuated that Justice Sarosh Homi Kapadia had committed ‘judicial impropriety’ by being a part of the forest Bench that heard the Niyamgiri Mining lease in Orissa and ruled in favour of Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite industries. Reportedly, the contempt plea was moved by Harish Salve, who helped the court as ‘amicus curiae.’
Bhushan had alleged that Justice Kapadia had a conflict of interest in the case as he owned shares of Sterlite. The Judge while acknowledging the fact that he had shares in the said company had clarified that he had revealed about the same at the very onset and that either party had no problem with it. Prashant Bhushan had implied then that a judge cannot hear cases where he had a conflict of interest and that Justice Kapadia had bypassed it.
He had said, “In my view, out of the last 16 to 17 Chief Justices, half have been corrupt. I can’t prove this, though we had evidence against Punchhi, Anand, and Sabharwal on the basis of which we sought their impeachment”.” The advocate had alleged that it was difficult to prove charges of corruption against judges in the higher judiciary and claimed, “This is also for the reason that no investigation is allowed into charges of corruption against the higher judiciary. There is no disciplinary authority which can inquire into or take action against judges who have been charged with corruption any other kind of misconduct.”
Shanti Bhushan comes in defence of his son
When contempt proceedings were initiated against his son, former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan had come to the rescue of his son. Reportedly, he had submitted a list of 6 ‘definitely honest’, and 8 ‘definitely court’ CJIs in a sealed cover to the apex court. He, however, couldn’t confirm anything on two remaining Chief Justices. Shanti Bhushan had also offered to go to jail, if his son was found guilty of contempt.
Shanti Bhushan appealed to the Court that it was difficult for him to fight the case over video conferencing and requested the case to be deferred for a few more weeks. He said, “I find it very hard to address the court through video conferencing. This matter has waited for 10 years. It can wait for a few more weeks until physical court hearing resumes.” However, the request was turned down.
The Court noted that Shanti Bhushan was ‘too much senior’ to join as a party in the case. “It’s a suo moto contempt petition. We are not impleading you,” the Court reiterated. The apex court remarked that while Shanti Bhushan was willing to go to jail on behalf of his son, out of his love an affection, it could not undermine the responsibility towards the law.
Rajeev Dhavan seeks more time
Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Prashant Bhushan, informed the apex Court that the case records could not be produced in court as they were located in Kasauli. He urged the Court to provide adequate time to prepare for the case. Dhavan also questioned the role of advocate Harish Salve in the case as he was not ‘officially’ appointed as amicus curiae.
The Supreme Court remarked that Rajeev Dhavan will be provided time ‘as per his satisfaction’. Kapil Sibal, representing molestation accused and former editor of Tehelka Tarun Tejpal, conceded that the case can wait for ‘more time’, since it had already been shelved for 10 years. ““This is not a matter where something impending is going to happen, unlike any demolition matter,” Sibal said. The Court observed that the case hearing will not be deferred as Justice Mishra is set to retire in September. The Court fixed the date of hearing on August 4 and said, “Through the virtual court, we are hearing all matters, including constitution bench cases. We will hear you all patiently.”
Contempt case against Prashant Bhushan over his tweets
Earlier, the Supreme Court of India took Suo Moto against Prashant Bhushan’s reckless behaviour on social media and initiated contempt of Court case against him and Twitter India. The apex court issued a show-cause notice to the senior advocate asking him to explain why actions should not be taken against him on contempt of court charges.
The court has also asked Attorney General KK Venugopal to assist the court, in the case, and a notice for the same has been issued to the AG. A three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra heard the suo moto case against Prashant Bhushan. The court stated that the case been filed against Prashant Bhushan for his tweet on last 4 CJIs, and another tweet on CJI riding a bike.