On Friday, the Supreme Court of India convicted PIL Activist Prashant Bhushan of contempt of court, for his tweets slandering the apex court and the chief justice of India. The order has been passed by a three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, and Bhushan can land up in jail for six months, although that will be decided by the court after arguments on the sentencing on 20th 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.
After the judgement came out, the usual suspects started terming it as an assault on freedom of speech. According to them, including Prashan Bhushan, he was merely criticising the judges, and it should not be considered a contempt of the court. Prashant Bhushan, along with Arun Shourie and N Ram had even filed a petition challenging the provision in the law itself, but they decided to withdraw the petition after realising that they will not get a favourable verdict.
The slander against Judiciary
While the left-liberals try to paint Bhushan’s tweets as mere dissent against the establishment, the fact is, they are, and other dozens of tweets and comments against the judiciary by the advocate, are really harmful, and they can’t be defended by invoking the freedom of expression. As the tweets have been found guilty of contempt of the Supreme Court, we can’t reproduce them here. But it may be noted that Prashant Bhushan had alleged that the democracy was destroyed in the last 6 years, and the Supreme Court also played a role in this ‘destruction of democracy’ without even invoking a formal emergency. He also slandered the last 4 CJIs for ‘their role’.
In another tweet, Prashant Bhushan had alleged that the CJI had ridden a motorcycle worth Rs 50 lakh belonging to a BJP leader, saying that the CJI was enjoying himself while denying the citizens their fundamental right by keeping the country under lockdown. In this tweet, Bhushan tried to imply that CJI Bobde was gifted an expensive motorcycle by a BJP leader, a serious allegation without any proof. CJI Bobde is known for his love for motorcycles, and he had merely posed with a Harley Davidson motorcycle, photograph of which went viral on social media. The Harley Davidson CVO 2020 was reportedly brought to him by a dealer for a demonstration. But Bhushan made serious allegations based only on the photograph.
These are clearly not mere dissent, nor valid criticism of any judgement which is not considered contempt. By saying that democracy was destroyed in the last 6 years with the contribution of the supreme court and the CJIs, Prashant Bhushan was insinuating that Indian democracy was destroyed after Narendra Modi led BJP government came to power, and somehow the apex court helped the govt to destroy the democracy.
‘Destroyed the democracy’ is a pretty vague allegation, with no evidence of the same. Democracy has been destroyed only for the perennial opponents of the BJP and PM Modi. Moreover, by blaming last 4 CJIs for the same, Prashant Bhushan clearly alleged that they were somehow hand in gloves with Modi, again without any proof. One can criticise specific judgements on their merits, but alleging that as many as 4 Chief Justices of India were in the payroll of BJP without any proof is certainly a serious contempt of court.
Disrespect of courts and sedition
Prashant Bhushan’s comments have another serious issue, it encourages people to create anarchy whenever some court judgement comes contrary to the expectation, it encourages people to not respect judgements which are not favourable to them. The Activist-lawyer is trying to imply that fair judgement is not possible at the highest court in the country, which, by corporally, implies that one needs to overthrow the government to get justice. By repeatedly attacking the Supreme Court, Bhushan is creating a fertile ground for sedition, where people attack the government and the court with baseless allegations to remove them.
Prashant Bhushan’s tirade against the legal system has to been seen in the context of the repeated defeats he had to face in the recent times. From Rafale to CBI to Sahara Birla diaries to the Justice Loya’s death, the wise courts saw through his lies and threw away his petitions which were not based on any solid evidence. The activist-lawyer is trying to use the court as a weapon against his fight with the government, which the court is not allowing. This has clearly rattled him, and prompted him to launch an attack on the Supreme Court judges and Chief Justices.
A habitual offender
Several contempt of court cases have been filed against Prashant Bhushan for his slanderous comments, and while many of them are still in the courts, he had apologised in a few of them. During the CBI director case, Bhushan had apologised for making false claims against the court, admitting he had made a ‘genuine mistake’ by claiming Govt submitted fabricated documents.
The fact that Bhushan launches an attack on the court whenever he does not get favourable judgement is not lost on the judges. Earlier this year, the apex court had slammed Bhushan for ‘regularly insulting’ the court and its judges. A bench of the Supreme Court had noted that Prashant Bhushan regularly insults the judges and the court casts aspersions on them whenever he failed to get any relief.
Hearing his petition challenging the govt’s handling of the migrant crisis during the Coronavirus lockdown, Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul had remarked, “Everytime there is an order in which you do not get any relief, you insult the institution, you cast aspersions on the judges. You don’t have any respect for constitutional bodies, you don’t have any faith in the judiciary.”
The other judge in the bench, justice B R Gavai had added, “If you don’t have faith in this institution, why should we hear you at all?”
The judges were referring to a tweet by Bhushan with similar contempt of court like the recent tweets. He had written, “I have watched the Supreme Court since Emergency. The kind of abject surrender to the government that we are seeing today was not seen even during the emergency. Most judges have totally forgotten their oath to protect the constitution and fundamental rights of people. Pathetic.”
This tweet also, against which no contempt proceeding was initiated, also clearly accuses the Supreme Court of surrendering to the Modi government, without any proof, just because his petitions are not accepted by the court on their merits. This is not dissent, but a clear case of contempt of court, for which the judges had correctly slammed him.
Prashant Bhushan is also facing another decade-old Contempt of Court case, which is also being heard by a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra. The case, which was revived recently by the court, pertains to an interview Bhushan had given to Tehelka, where 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.
Prashant Bhushan has been particularly critical of Justice Arun Mishra, and have posted several slanderous comments against him. He had attached the judge for praising PM Modi at an event, and for BJP leaders attending family events of Justice Mishra’s son-in-law.