The Supreme Court of India on Monday refused to accept the ‘regret’ offered by advocate Prashant Bhushan for his comment in an interview to Tehelka magazine in 2009. A contempt of court case was filed against him for saying that half of the past 16 Chief Justices of India were corrupt.
Supreme Court passes order and refuses to accept the expression of regret by lawyer Prashant Bhushan, in the 11-year old contempt of court case against him. SC noted that the case has to continue and needs to be heard by August 17. pic.twitter.com/Wnh5n2m3g8— ANI (@ANI) August 10, 2020
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra was hearing his plea in which he requested to the court to accept his “regret” for his statement of 2009. He gave a written statement in court stating he did not mean to offend the judges. The court refused to accept the plea and posted the matter for hearing on 17th August. The bench said in its order that they want to hear if calling judges corrupt amounts for contempt.
Decade-old case raises questions against ‘outspoken’ Bhushan
In a decade-old case against Prashant Bhushan, the Supreme Court of India held an in-camera proceeding on 4th August. In that hearing Tarun Tejpal, former editor of Tehelka magazine and Prashant Bhushan both gave statements in front of the court. The bench then said that there is a fine line between free speech and contempt. There should be a balance between the right to free speech on the one hand, and on the other hand, it is important to protect the dignity of the judiciary as an institute.
2009 criminal contempt case against adv Prashant Bhushan to continue as #SupremeCourt doesn’t accept his ‘explanation’ & says court will hear in detail as to any comment on corruption against judges would per se amount to contempt or not.— Utkarsh Anand (@utkarsh_aanand) August 10, 2020
While Tejpal offered an apology for publishing the interview, Bhushan said that his allegations were not referring to the financial status of the judges or their families but the lack of propriety. He said if the court felt otherwise, he regrets his statement.
Multiple cases of contempt against Bhushan
On 22nd July, the same bench issued a suo motu notice to Prashant Bhushan for the remarks he posted on microblogging site Twitter. While replying to the court, Twitter USA as a party said that they would restrict the tweet until the judgement is passed in the case. In the Tweets, Prashant Bhushan raised questions on the functioning of the court and asked how CJI can afford to drive an expensive bike.
In his reply to the court, Bhushan said that being outspoken or disagreeable to someone cannot be interpreted as contempt of court.