Prashant Bhushan Contempt cases involve larger questions of law; Constitution Bench must hear matter in physical court: Kurian Joseph J.
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Prashant Bhushan Contempt cases involve larger questions of law; Constitution Bench must hear matter in physical court: Kurian Joseph J.

"Certainly, there are more graver issues, involving substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution of India", reads the statement issued by the former Supreme Court judge.

Bar & Bench

Amid a rising chorus of lawyers raising concern over the Supreme Court's August 14 verdict holding lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt of Court for two tweets criticising the judiciary, former Supreme Court judge, Justice (retd.) Kurian Joseph has released a statement opining that the substantial questions of law raised in the matter ought to be heard by a Constitution Bench of the top Court.

Notably, Justice (retd.) Kurian has also stated that this issue must be taken up in physical court, rather than amid the Supreme Court's present mode of virtual functioning.

"Under Article 145 (3) of the Constitution of India, there shall be a quorum of minimum five Judges for deciding any case involving substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution. In both the suo-motu contempt cases, in view of the substantial questions of law on the interpretation of the Constitution of India and having serious repercussions on the fundamental rights, the matters require to be heard by a Constitution Bench", says the judge in his statement.

Justice (retd.) Joseph also points out that in the contempt case against former High Court judge CS Karnan as well, "it was the collective wisdom of the full court of the Supreme Court that the matter should be heard at least by a bench consisting of the seven senior-most Judges."

The cases against Bhushan, he goes on to opine, involves larger issues concerning the "concept and jurisprudence of the country regarding justice itself."

"Certainly, there are more graver issues, involving substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution of India", reads the statement, which goes on to emphasise:

"Important cases like these need to be heard elaborately in a physical hearing where only there is scope for a broader discussion and wider participation. Men may come and men may go, but the Supreme Court of India should remain forever as the court of supreme justice."
Justice (retd.) Kurian Joseph

Justice (retd.) Joseph adds that, inter alia, the matter raises the question of whether a person convicted for contempt by the Supreme Court in a suo motu case should get an opportunity for an intra-court appeal, considering that in all other situations of criminal convictions, a convicted person is entitled to have a second opportunity by way of appeal.

The retired judge points out that intra-court appeals in contempt cases are provided for where a person is convicted for contempt by a High Court. Pertinently, Justice (retd.) Joseph notes that this safeguard is in place to "avoid even the remotest possibility of miscarriage of justice."

In this backdrop, he asks, "Should there not be such a safeguard in the other Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of India also, when there is a conviction in a suo-motu criminal contempt case?"

While urging for a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court to consider this issue in a physical hearing, Justice (retd.) Joseph also adds,

"'Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum' (let justice be done though the heavens fall) is the fundamental basis of administration of justice by Courts. But, if justice is not done or if there is miscarriage of justice, heavens will certainly fall. The Supreme Court of India should not let it happen."
Justice (retd.) Kurian Joseph

Read the Statement:

Justice Kurian Joseph Statement.pdf
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