Judges supporting Prashant Bhushan against contempt proceedings
Judges supporting Prashant Bhushan against contempt proceedings
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Suo Motu contempt case: Eight more retired Supreme Court and High Court judges pledge support for Prashant Bhushan

Earlier, 131 persons from civil society including former judges, activists, political leaders, academicians, had issued a statement in solidarity with Prashant Bhushan.

Shruti Mahajan

Eight more retired judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts have expressed their solidarity for Advocate Prashant Bhushan, against whom suo motu contempt proceedings have been initiated by the Apex Court.

The total number of former judges supporting Bhushan now stands at ten.

Earlier, 131 persons from civil society including former judges, activists, political leaders, academicians etc. had issued a statement in solidarity with Bhushan.

Among these were former Supreme Court judge, Justice Madan Lokur and former Delhi High Court Judge Justice AP Shah.

The statement is now signed by the following retired judges:

  • Justice Ruma Pal, former judge of the Supreme Court of India

  • Justice GS Singhvi, former judge of the Supreme Court of India

  • Justice Ashok 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

The Supreme Court recently issued notice to Bhushan, Twitter as well as Attorney General for India KK Venugopal on a complaint filed against the lawyer 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 signatories of this statement have urged the Supreme Court to reconsider initiation of contempt proceedings against Bhushan. The statement adds that criticism against the judiciary must not be stifled and this principle is well recognized by the Supreme Court itself. As such, the statement reads,

“In the interest of justice and fairness and to maintain the dignity of the Supreme Court of India, we urge the Court to reconsider its decision to initiate suo-moto contempt proceedings against Mr. Prashant Bhushan and to withdraw the same at the earliest.”

An institution like the Supreme Court must be open to public discussion without the people fearing retribution or criminal proceedings against them, the statement reads. It is also highlighted 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 statement notes. The signatories add that the Court should, in fact, address the grievances raised therein.

“We urge the Hon’ble judges of the Supreme Court to take note of these concerns and engage with the public in an open and transparent manner. The initiation of contempt proceedings against Mr. Bhushan who had articulated some of these concerns in his tweets, appears to be an attempt at stifling such criticism, not just by Prashant Bhushan but by all stakeholders in the Indian democratic and constitutional setup. We believe the institution must address these genuine concerns.”

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.

In addition to the ten retired judges, many lawyers, academicians, activists, former bureaucrats, and members of civil society have signed this statement.

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