SC holds Bhushan guilty of contempt for tweets on CJI
On Friday, the Supreme Court held known lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt for two of his tweets targeting Chief Justice SA Bobde and the judiciary. A three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai, and Krishna Murari is yet to decide on the quantum of punishment and will pronounce the sentence on August 20. The top court had taken a suo motu cognizance.
In one of the controversial tweets, Bhushan shared an image of CJI Bobde riding a high-end Harley Davidson bike. With the image, he wrote, "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! (sic)."
In another tweet, Bhushan claimed historians won't be merciful towards SC. "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, (sic)" he wrote.
On July 22, the aforementioned bench issued a contempt notice to Bhushan saying that his tweets, prima facie, brought disrepute to the judiciary. The top court said the tweets were capable of undermining the "dignity and authority of the Supreme Court in general and office of the CJI in particular, in eyes of the general public." However, Bhushan disagreed and filed an affidavit.
In the 142-page-long affidavit, Bhushan justified his tweets saying it hardly classified as contempt. Throughout the document, he expressed regret only once saying it was wrong of him to slam CJI Bobde for not wearing a helmet when the bike was not moving. He added "CJI is not SC and SC is not CJI," and assuming the same would be wrong.
Standing by his second tweet, Bhushan replied that SC didn't control Centre's "excesses." "At a time when the country witnessed an assault on all democratic norms, liberty of citizens, and the secular fabric, the Supreme court by various acts of omission and commission acted in a manner that allowed the majoritarian executive at the Centre to trample upon the rights of citizens," he said.
Separately, Bhushan moved a plea in the apex court against SC's Secretary-General for listing the contempt plea on the judicial side, without Attorney General's consent. In this petition, he also asked why an 11-year-old contempt case, whose last hearing happened in 2012, was suddenly listed. To note, in 2009, Bhushan had claimed most "CJIs are corrupt" during an interview, evoking the aforementioned contempt case.