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After Prashant Bhushan casts aspersions about ‘independence’ of Judiciary, Attorney General’s consent sought to initiate contempt proceedings

In his interview with G Sampath of The Hindu, Prashant Bhushan had made insidious claims about the sanctity of the Indian judiciary

In a letter to the Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal, an applicant has sought consent to initiate contempt proceedings against ‘activist’ and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan. The applicant has urged for action against Bhushan under section 15 of contempt of courts act, to be read with rule 3 (C) for contempt of Supreme Court, 1975, for a contentious interview published in The Hindu newspaper on November 29.

“The contents of the interview are prima facie contemptuous,” the applicant stated. In the letter, it has also been pointed out that the full article was tweeted by Prashant Bhushan himself wherein he had claimed (on both occasions) that the independence of the judiciary has been ‘compromised’. The applicant has also attached scanned copies of his interview to substantiate his application.

On November 29, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan had tweeted, “The independence of the judiciary has collapsed: Prashant Bhushan”: This is the full interview online.

Screengrab of the tweet by Prashant Bhushan

In his interview with G Sampath of The Hindu, Prashant Bhushan had made insidious claims about the sanctity of the Indian judiciary. At the very onset, he claimed, “General corruption in the Supreme Court may have increased marginally since then (formation of Committee on Judicial Accountability in 1990).” He added that corruption in the apex court included financial, political affiliations and nepotism and have been ‘influencing’ the decision-making process of the Judges.

“I don’t think this form of corruption has substantially increased. But what is alarming is that in the last few years, the independence of the judiciary has collapsed. Today, the major problem is the lack of independence of the Supreme Court, and its willingness to kowtow to the government,” Prashant Bhushan alleged. While brazenly blaming the political dispensation at the Centre for ‘controlling’ the Judiciary, the senior advocate remarked, “The current regime has used state agencies to prepare a dossier on Chief Justices even before they assume office. They have often tried to have Chief Justices-to-be on tenterhooks till assured that they will kowtow to the government.”

Screengrab of the Prashant Bhushan’s interview with The Hindu newspaper

On being asked whether Justice Arun Mishra was the “worst Supreme Court Judge ever”, Prashant Bhushan agreed to the contentious assertion. “In many ways he would be regarded as such, yes. Because he was also brazen. He didn’t care about the impact of his decisions on the poor and marginalised, or about judicial propriety or how his decisions appeared to independent observers,” he reiterated.

AG had declined contempt proceedings against Bhushan after apology

Last week, the Attorney General had declined to give go-ahead for another contempt of court plea against Prashant Bhushan, as the advocate had already expressed regret over it.  A Supreme Court Advocate had written to the AG in October seeking his consent to initiate contempt proceedings against Bhushan for his tweets targeting the Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, and linking the CJI’s visit to Madhya Pradesh with the disqualification case of MLAs of the state pending before the apex court.

Although K K Venugopal had refused to give permission, he had severely criticised Prashant Bhushan for his baseless allegations against the CJI.

Prashant Bhushan was convicted of contempt of court

On August 14, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court held Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court for his tweets against the judiciary and the Chief Justices of India. The Supreme Court had convicted senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan after holding him guilty in contempt of court, with a fine of Re 1. The court had added that if Bhushan fails to pay a fine of Re 1, he will be sentenced to 3 months in jail and suspension of his lawyering for 3 months. The case pertained to two tweets where Prashant Bhushan had cast aspersions against the Supreme Court and specifically, CJI Bobde.

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