Recently, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai, and Krishna Murari, took up suo moto cognizance based on two of Mr Prashant Bhushan’s Tweets, after a Complaint filed by one Mahek Maheshwari, vide In Re Prashant Bhushan and Another, Suo Motu Contempt Petition (CRL.) No.1 of 2020, decided on 14.08.2020. It held Advocate Mr Prashant Bhushan guilty of Contempt of Court for his two Tweets which the Court said had shaken the “very foundation of constitutional democracy”.
The Case involves the Tweets in question, which were critical to the Supreme Court and posted by Mr Prashant Bhushan on Twitter on June 27th and June 29th, 2020. The June 27th Tweet said, “When historians in future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction, & more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs.”
The June 29th Tweet included a Photo of Chief Justice of India, S.A. Bobde riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and said, “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!”
While holding the said Tweets amounting to criminal contempt, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed and recorded the following points in its Judgment:
- The Bench said that Mr Bhushan being part of the institution of administration of justice, instead of protecting the majesty of law has indulged in an act, which tends to bring disrepute to the institution of administration of justice. He is expected to act as a responsible officer of this Court.
- The Judgment also states that he has made such a scandalous and malicious statement after having himself availed the right of access to justice during the said period, not only as a lawyer but also as a litigant.
- It further noticed that the Tweet clearly tends to give an impression, that the Supreme Court, which is a highest constitutional court in the country, has in the last six years played a vital role in destruction of the Indian democracy. There is no manner of doubt that the Tweet tends to shake the public confidence in the institution of Judiciary.
- While the Court noticed that the first part of the Tweet could be said to be a criticism made against the CJI as an individual and not against the CJI as CJI. However, the second part of the Tweet attempts to give an impression to a layman that the CJI is riding a 50 lakh motorcycle belonging to a BJP leader at Raj Bhavan, Nagpur without a mask or helmet, at a time when he has kept the SC in lockdown mode denying citizens their fundamental right to access justice.
- The Judges have also said that Mr Bhushan made a “wild allegation” in the second Tweet in question, by insinuating that the CJI was enjoying joy rides on a motorcycle while the Supreme Court was in lockdown. It continues to state that
“In this premise, making such wild allegation thereby giving an impression, that the CJI is enjoying riding an expensive bike, while he keeps the SC in lockdown mode and thereby denying citizens their fundamental right to access justice, is undoubtedly false, malicious and scandalous. It has the tendency to shake the confidence of the public at large in the institution of judiciary and the institution of the CJI and undermining the dignity and authority of the administration of justice.”
- On the second Part of the Tweet the Court said that the date on which the CJI is alleged to have taken a ride on a motorbike is during the period when the Supreme Court was on a summer vacation. In any case, even during the said period, the vacation Benches of the Court were regularly functioning.
Amongst other observations the Hon’ble Court refused to accept the contentions of Mr Prashant Bhushan that the said statement was a bona fide criticism made by him on account of his anguish of non-functioning of the courts physically. Thus, the Court said that if such an attack is not dealt with, with requisite degree of firmness, it may affect the national honour and prestige in the comity of nations. Fearless and impartial courts of justice are the bulwark of a healthy democracy and the confidence in Judiciary cannot be permitted to be impaired by malicious attacks upon it. Therefore, Mr Prashant Bhushan was held guilty of Criminal Contempt of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
The Indian Lawyer