Advocate and PIL activist Prashant Bhushan along with N Ram and Arun Shourie decided to withdraw a petition filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of a provision of the Contempt of Court Act today. The petition was filed by the trio after a contempt of court case was filed against Prashant Bhushan for his tweets against the Chief Justice of India.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who appeared on behalf of the petitioners, informed the court of Justice Arun Mishra that they have decided to withdraw the petition for the time. He said that the “issue is important but the petitioners would not like to raise the issue at this stage”. Dhavan also sought the liberty to raise the issue again at a later stage, maybe after two months or so, indicating that Prashant Bhushan will file the petition later, perhaps after the retirement of Justice Arun Mishra.
According to the submission, the Supreme Court allowed the petitioners to withdraw the petition, with the liberty to file it before another appropriate forum, not the Supreme Court.
The development came after the case was re-listed in the court of Justice Arun Mishra, after it was wrongly registered before the court of justices D Y Chandrachud and K M Joseph by the Supreme Court Registry officials. This was considered as a violation of court rules, as Justice Mishra was hearing two contempt of court cases against Bhushan. Along with the petition challenging the contempt of court law, the petitioners had also sought stay in the cases against Bhushan, and therefore the case should have been listed with that court which is already hearing similar cases, which was the court of Justice Arun Mishra in this case.
After the error was pointed and the officials were asked to explain the wrong listing, the case was deleted from the listing before of justices D Y Chandrachud and K M Joseph, and it was correctly listed before the court of Justice Mishra.
It may be noted that bypassing the court of justice Arun Mishra by the registry officials in listing Prashant Bhushan’s petition had raised eyebrows, because Prashant Bhushan has been openly critical of the Supreme Court Justice. He has attacked the third-most senior justice in the Supreme Court numerous times in the court.
Therefore, Rajeev Dhavan’s comment that the petitioners may file the petition again after around two months assumed significance, because by then Justice Arun Mishra will retire. Justice Mishra is scheduled to retire on 2nd September. Clearly, after the case was moved to his court, Prashant Bhushan and others lost confidence in their petition, and they will like to try their luck with other justices after justice Mishra retires.