A bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Altamas Kabir, Cyriac Joseph and H. L. Dattu wants Prashant Bhushan to apologise to the court for saying in an interview to a magazine that half of the former CJIs were corrupt. Harish Salve had taken Prashant Bhushan to court saying he had cast aspersions on present CJI S. H. Kapadia also. That resulted in a contempt of court case. Supreme Court is not ready to accept truth as a justification for Prashant Bhushan’s statement and wants “one word of regret” from Prashant Bhushan. Prashant Bhushan is ready to utter “10 words of regret” to S. H. Kapadia. Altamas Kabir said it is not a matter of a person, but an institution.
An institution is made up of individuals. If individuals are corrupt they bring disrepute to the institution. Judges who were or are corrupt should be punished. It is a travesty of justice when corrupt judges go scot-free and people who speak the truth about corrupt judges are punished or asked to apologise. India’s national motto is Satyameva Jayate, truth always triumphs. Punishing people for speaking the truth is making a mockery of our national motto. The provision regarding contempt of court was meant to punish the people who defy court orders and not for punishing the people for speaking the truth, more so when they expose judicial corruption.
Prashant Bhushan should make public what he knows about corrupt CJIs. The law must be changed to hang corrupt CJIs. Prashant Bhushan has been in the forefront of fight against corruption and was in the committee to draft Lokpal Bill. He should not apologise. If he goes to jail it will show the abuse of the power of the court to punish the innocent. That may result in a law that will define contempt of court and take away the power of judges to act arbitrarily or scrapping the provision altogether. Many constitutions do not have the provision of contempt of court.
Udit Raj and Vineet Narain have mentioned some CJIs as corrupt. Why is Harish Salve silent about them? Vineet Narain is hostile to Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan.
Many times the Supreme Court has ordered CBI investigations in cases of corruption involving politicians and others. On some occasions the Supreme Court has set up Special Investigation Teams. In one case it appointed a prosecutor. Sometimes newspaper reports are treated as Public Interest Litigations. The Supreme Court should order an investigation in cases of corruption involving CJIs. If the charges are serious they should be behind bars like A. Raja, Suresh Kalmadi, Kanimozhi and so on. The judges should not have one standard for themselves and another standard for others. If the Supreme Court does not act, the government should act. If CJIs are in jail that will be a signal to judges that they are not above the law.