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’There’s a thin line between free speech and contempt that you may have crossed: SC rebukes Prashant Bhushan in 2010 contempt case

Yesterday, in another contempt case initiated against him for his tweets on the CJI, Prashant Bhushan had chosen not to apologise and instead accused the SC of remaining a mute spectator during the Delhi riots.

The Supreme Court Tuesday concluded arguments in the decade-old contempt case against advocate Prashant Bhushan. During the in-camera hearing, the three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra told Prashant Bhushan, that there is a very thin line between freedom of speech and contempt which he may have crossed.

“We’re all for freedom of speech. Then theres contempt. However, theres a thin line that you may have crossed”, Justice Mishra told Prashant Bhushan.

After a brief hearing on the matter through videoconference, the hearing was turned into the in-camera proceeding. While senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan appeared for Prashant Bhushan, Congress leader Kapil Sibal represented molestation accused and the former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal, who is also named in the contempt case initiated by senior advocate Harish Salve.

Prashant Bhushan had alleged that half of past 16 CJIs were corrupt

The contempt proceedings were initiated against Prashant Bhushan for comments he had made on the judiciary in an interview to the Tehelka magazine in 2009. He had alleged that half of past 16 chief justices of India (CJIs) were corrupt. 

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 Odisha and ruled in favour of Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite industries. He had alleged that Justice Kapadia had a conflict of interest in the case as he owned shares of Sterlite. 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.

Prashant Bhushan refused to apologise in contempt case initiated for his tweets

Yesterday, in yet another contempt case, initiated against him for his reckless behaviour on social media, Bhushan had chosen not to apologise and instead declare 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, he refused to express any regret or apology for his conduct. Instead, Prashant Bhushan, through his affidavit, accused the SC of remaining silent during the Delhi Riots in the month of February.

Contempt case against the ‘PIL activist’ over his tweets

Earlier, the Supreme Court of India took Suo Moto against Prashant Bhushan’s Tweets against CJI on 27th June and 29th June and initiated contempt of Court case against him and Twitter India on July 9, 2020. The apex court had 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.

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