On 14/8/2020 Supreme Court declared Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court for his two tweets; first about CJI Sharad Arvind Bobde and second about last 4 CJIs. The Bench consisted of Justices Arun Mishra, Bhushan Ramkrishna Gavai and Krishna Murari.
First tweet was on 29/6/2020. “CJI rides a 50 Lakh motorcycle belonging to a BJP leader at Raj Bhavan Nagpur, without a mask or helmet, at a time when he keeps the SC in Lockdown mode denying citizens their fundamental right to access justice!”
Second tweet was on 27/6/2020. “When historians in future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy has been destoryed in India even without formal Emergency, they will particulary mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction, & more particulary the role of the last 4 CJIs.”
Three other of last four CJIs are Ranjan Gogoi, Dipak Misra and Jagdish Singh Khehar. There were three other CJIs during the last six years: Rajendra Mal Lodha, Handyala Laxminarayanaswamy Dattu and Tirath Singh Thakur.
Supreme Court was on vacation from 22/6/2020. Lockdown in Delhi was by Central Government and Delhi Government. There were vacation benches to conduct hearings through video conferencing and tele conferencing. Prashant Bhushan should have known that.
About second tweet Prashant Bhushan submitted that it was his expression of opinion however outspoken, disagreeable and unpalatable to some cannot constitute contempt of court. Supreme Court cannot be equated with a CJI or even a succession of four CJIs. Dushyant Dave represented Prashant Bhushan.
Prashant Bhushan was held guilty under Article 129 of the Constitution and Contempt of Courts Act 1971.
Article 129 – Supreme Court to be a court of record – The Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.
Section 2(1)(c) of Contempt of Courts Act 1971 – “criminal contempt” means the publication (whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which –
(i) scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of any court;…
Supreme Court held that the tweets are based on distorted facts and amount to committing criminal contempt.
Punishment for contempt is jail up to six months, fine up to 2,000 rupees or both. Hearing for quantum of punishment is on 20/8/2020.
Prashant Bhushan further faces contempt charge in a 2009 case where he had said eight of 16 former CJIs were corrupt. The case was dormant for eight years. It has come back to life. Supreme Court on 10/8/2020 rejcted Prashant Bhushan’s regret.
Democracy is reflected through will of people’s representatives who legislate. Judges by their verdicts have assumed powers not given to them. They have amended Constitution, struck down amendments to Constitution. They established collegium to appoint judges. They struck down amendment establishing National Judicial Appointments Commission. Prashant Bhushan and many others were happy that Supreme Court struck down 99th amendment and NJAC on 16/10/2015. They did not see that as destruction of democracy. He and lawyers like him approach courts to undo democracy. When they don’t get what they wanted they speak against courts.
On 9/5/2017 Supreme Court had sentenced Justice Chinnaswamy Swaminathan Karnan to six months jail for his claim that 33 judges of Supreme Court/Madras/Sikkim/Jammu & Kashmir/Hyderabad High Court were corrupt. Prashant Bhushan had tweeted in support of judgment – “Glad SC finally jailed Karnan for gross contempt of court. He made reckless charges on judges & then passed absurd ‘orders’ against SC judges!” Prashant Bushan had two standards; one for himself another for others. In Nira Radia tapes case he said his tape was tampered with and Vir Sanghvi’s tape was genuine.