Prashant Bhushan has chosen attack as his favoured mode of defence in response to the criminal contempt proceedings that were initiated by the Supreme Court on a suo moto basis. The contempt proceedings were initiated against him for comments he had made on the previous four Chief Justices of India and also the current CJI.
The ‘PIL activist’ declared in his affidavit, “At the outset I admit that I did not notice that the bike was on a stand and therefore wearing a helmet was not required. I, therefore, regret that part of my tweet. However, I stand by the remaining part of what I have stated in my tweet.” Through the entire length of the 134-page affidavit, Prashant Bhushan refused to express any regret or apology for his conduct.
The Senior Advocate stated, “What I have tweeted is thus my bonafide impression about the manner and functioning of the Supreme court in the past years and especially about the role of the last four Chief Justices have played vis a vis their role in being a check and balance on the powers of the executive, their role in ensuring that the supreme court functions in a transparent and accountable manner and was constrained to say that they, contributed to undermining democracy.”
“To bona fide critique the actions of a CJI, or a succession of CJIs, cannot and does not scandalise the court, nor does it lower the authority of the court. To assume or suggest that ‘the CJI is the SC, and the SC is the CJI’ is to undermine the institution of the Supreme Court of India,” he contended.
Regarding his tweet on CJI Bobde riding a motorbike, Prashant Bhushan said, “The fact that he was on a motorcycle costing 50 lakhs owned by a BJP leader had been established by documentary evidence published on social media. The fact that it was in Raj Bhavan had also been reported in various sections of the media. My expressing anguish by highlighting this incongruity and the attendant facts cannot be said to constitute contempt of court. If it were to be so regarded, it would stifle free speech and would constitute an unreasonable restriction on Article l9(1Xa) of the Constitution.”
The affidavit also claimed that the Supreme Court remained silent while Delhi burned during the Delhi Riots in the month of February. It stated, “Justice DY Chandrachud, while delivering the 15th PD Desai Memorial Lecture in the Gujarat high court on February 15, had expressed his anguish at the manner in which dissent was labelled as anti-national. Yet, a week later, when the Delhi riots were unleashed, with daily videos emerging of mobs tearing down and burning mosques, the police systematically destroying public CCTVs (closed-circuit TVs) and taking an active part in stone-throwing, the SC remained a mute spectator while the national capital burnt.”
Prashant Bhushan vs Judiciary
Prashant Bhushan has irked the Judiciary on several occasions in recent times. The Supreme Court recently slammed the advocate for his critical comments passed on Twitter against the Union Minister Prakash Javadekar who had shared a picture of himself watching “Ramayana” serial amidst the national lockdown on Twitter.
In June, the apex court refused to entertain the petition filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan in connection with the decongestion of jails during the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Instructing him to take the matter to the High Courts, the Supreme Court asked him whether he would withdraw the petition or should they dismiss it.
There have been several other occasions when the Supreme Court has delivered verdicts and orders not favourable to his point of view, due to which the advocate’s anger against the Judiciary has been boiling over.