New Delhi: The Supreme Court today decided to place issues relating to the 2009 contempt case against Advocate Prashant Bhushan before a larger bench.
Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Bhushan, submitted that the matter should go to a Constitution Bench, given the significance it has. He further urged the bench to hear the Attorney General on the issue. “The question about whether any reference to corruption by judges would amount to contempt should be heard only by a Constitution Bench,” submitted Dhavan.
Dhavan also sought a reconsideration of the Supreme Court judgment in the suo motu case, of convicting Bhushan on August 14.
He also submitted: “These questions must be resolved ‘once and for all’. The court’s free speech jurisprudence has expanded and its impact on contempt law must be considered.”
The bench, comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari, said that there has to be sufficient pleadings for framing questions and asked Dhavan if these questions can be considered without such pleadings.
Justice Mishra further said: “Mr Dhavan, I’m short of time. I’m demitting office. So whether it is proper for me to take a call on this (reference to a larger bench) is also an issue.”
Dhavan submitted that the question whether Articles 129 and 215 of the Constitution, enabling the court to take suo moto contempt action are powers independent of other provisions of the constitution, particularly Articles 19 and 21, goes to the very heart of Bhushan’s defence. How much of the court’s free speech jurisprudence needs to be read into suo moto contempt powers? This is an important question in this case, submitted Dhavan.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Tarun Tejpal, agreed that the issues raised require to be examined by a larger bench.
The bench, while referring the question to the larger bench, said that the main question is, if alleging corruption against judges would amount to contempt per se or not.
On the question of issuing notice to the Attorney General the bench said that the other bench will take a call on that too.
The case was filed against Bhushan after he made allegations of corruption against former Chief Justices of India S.H. Kapadia and K.G. Balakrishnan.
During the interview to Tehelka Magazine, Bhushan also allegedly said that half of the preceding 16 Chief Justices of India were corrupt.
The Supreme Court had subsequently taken suo motu notice of the issue after a complaint to this effect was filed by Senior Advocate Harish Salve, Amicus in the case.
Read the order here;34354-2009-33-7-23571-Order-25-Aug-2020
-India Legal Bureau