In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court held advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court. The case pertained to two tweets where Prashant Bhushan had cast aspersions against the Supreme Court and specifically, CJI Bobde. The order has been passed by a three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and the arguments on sentencing, that can go up to 6 months, will be heard by the bench on the 20th of August. The suo moto contempt proceedings against Bhushan were initiated on the 22nd of July after his two tweets, dated 22nd and 29th of June.
#SupremeCourt holds adv Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court for his tweets against CJIs & the court. Arguments on punishment, which can go up to 6 months in jail, to take place on Aug 20.— Utkarsh Anand (@utkarsh_aanand) August 14, 2020
Order by a three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra.
Justice B R Gavai, reading out the judgment in the case of contempt of court against advocate Prashant Bhushan, observed that Bhushan committed “serious contempt of the Court”. The judgement holding Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt was passed after hearing the elaborate arguments by the lawyer representing Bhushan in SC, Dushyant Dave.
in the Supreme Court, Prashant Bhushan had argued that the tweets were his bona fide criticism and since several things are wrong with the Judiciary, his criticism was valid and thus, cannot amount to contempt of court.
As regards his tweet about Chief Justice of India, S A Bobde, seated on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, Bhushan said in the a`davit that his comment was to underline his angusih at the non-physical functioning of the Supreme Court for the last more than three months, “as a result of which fundamental rights of citizens, such as those in detention, those destitute and poor, and others facing serious and urgent grievances were not being addressed or taken up for redressal”.
As regards the tweet about the role of SC in the destruction of democracy and the role of last 4 CJIs in that, Bhushan says that it was his “bona[de impression” about them and it is his considered opinion that SC allowed the destruction of democracy and such expression of opinion however “outspoken, disagreeable or unpalatable” can’t constitute contempt.
Contempt proceedings against Prashant Bhushan over defamatory 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.
Tweets by Prashant Bhushan were withheld by Twitter India
The three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai, and Krishna Murari had noted that the said tweets brought ‘disrepute’ to the ‘administration of justice.’ The Court has further asked the advocate to explain whether the tweets are ‘contemptuous’ in nature. As per Twitter policies, a tweet is usually withheld in response to a legal action or an order from a competent court in any country.
Advocate Sajan Poovayya, representing Twitter Inc. in the apex court, had informed that a tweet is deleted only after a Court order and clarified that ‘withholding tweets’ did not imply ‘deletion of tweets’. Reportedly, when a Court takes suo motu cognizance of a subject as ‘contemptuous’, it is deemed that the matter is liable for contempt even if none is prosecuted by the end of the trial. As per Bar and Bench, by withholding the tweets, the social media giant has kept its options open – either to delete or restore them, post the final verdict in the case.