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Over a hundred persons from civil society including former Judges, activists, political leaders, academicians etc. have issued a statement in solidarity with Advocate Prashant Bhushan in view of the initiation of suo motu contempt of Court proceedings against him.
The Supreme Court recently issued notice to Bhushan, Twitter as well as Attorney General for India KK Venugopal on a complaint filed against Bhushan for publishing tweets which allegedly “brought disrepute” to the institution of the Supreme Court. Initiation of these proceedings appears to be an attempt to stifle criticism of the judiciary, the statement says.
The contempt proceedings against Bhushan must be reconsidered by the Court, the signatories of this statement have urged. The solidarity statement adds that the criticism against the Judiciary must not be stifled and this principle is well recognized by the Supreme Court itself. As such, the statement reads,
An institution like the Supreme Court must be open to public discussion without the people fearing retribution or criminal proceedings against them. This statement also highlights that criminal contempt of Court, as an offence, has been rendered redundant in many democracies including the USA and the UK.
The tweets in question, which had led to the contempt proceedings against Bhushan, raise genuine concerns which are echoed by many people, the solidarity statements says. The signatories add that the Court should, in fact, address the grievances raised therein.
Bhushan, in his individual capacity has been a “crusader” for many causes, the signatories go on to say. They add that the reluctance of the Court to undertake its constitutionally mandated role in the recent migrant worker crisis issue is something that was felt not only by Bhushan but many others. Retribution meted out to Bhushan is a way of stifling criticism and this action must be reconsidered, the statement says.
This solidarity statement has been signed by the likes of Justice (retd.) Madan Lokur, Justice (retd.) AP Shah, retired bureaucrats, activists like Aakar Patel, Arundhati Roy, Anjali Bhardwaj, Beswada Wilson, Medha Patkar, Harsh Mander, Jagdeep Chhokar, Teesta Setalvad, Lawyers like Anand Grover, CU Singh, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Indira Jaising, Mihir Desai, Vrinda Grover, politicians likle D Raja, Brinda Karat, Economist Jean Dreze, former LG of Delhi Najeeb Jung, Former CICs Wajahat Habibullah and Shailesh Gandhi, among many others.
The statement has been signed by as many as 131 signatories.
Update: As on July 29, eight more retired Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts have endorsed the solidarity statement.
While Justices (retd.) Madan Lokur and AP Shah were part of the first set of signatories, the following retired Judges have now come to endorse the statement of solidarity:
Justice Ruma Pal, former judge of the Supreme Court of India
Justice G. S. Singhvi, former judge of the Supreme Court of India
Justice Asok K Ganguly, former judge of the Supreme Court of India
Justice Gopala Gowda, former judge of the Supreme Court of India
Justice Aftab Alam, former judge of the Supreme Court of India
Justice Jasti Chelameswar, former judge of the Supreme Court of India
Justice Vikramjit Sen, former judge of the Supreme Court of India
Justice Anjana Prakash, former judge of the Patna High Court
Read the Statement: