8 More Former SC Judges Show Solidarity With Prashant Bhushan

Ex-SC judge Madan Lokur; former Chief Justice of Delhi HC AP Shah, authors and lawyers have signed the statement.

Updated31 Jul 2020, 05:16 AM IST
India
3 min read

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

The Supreme Court recently issued a notice to Bhushan on a complaint filed against the lawyer for publishing tweets which allegedly “brought disrepute” to the Supreme Court.

A statement signed by 131 people, including retired judges, ex civil servants, authors and lawyers, stated that this is an attempt to stifle criticism of the judiciary.

“Mr Bhushan has been a relentless crusader for the rights of the weakest sections of our society and has spent his career in pro bono legal service to those who do not have ready access to justice,” read the statement.

A total of ten former judges have extended support to Bhushan now, reported Bar and Bench.

The retired judges who have signed the statement are Justice Ruma Pal, Justice GS Singhvi, Justice Ashok K Ganguly, Justice Gopala Gowda, Justice Aftab Alam, Justice Jasti Chelameswar, Justice Vikramjit Sen, and Justice Anjana Prakash.

The case will be heard again on 5 August.

The statement goes on to read:

“In the past few years, serious questions have been raised about the reluctance of the Supreme Court to play its constitutionally mandated role as a check on governmental excesses and violations of fundamental rights of people by the state. These questions have been raised by all sections of society, media, academics, civil society organisations, members of the legal fraternity and even by sitting and retired judges of the Supreme Court itself. “
Justice Madan Lokur, former Supreme Court judge, Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, senior advocates like Indira Jaisingh, Anand Grover, and Gopal Shankarnarayan, freedom fighter GG Parikh, author Arundhati Roy, and professors and ex civil servants are among the signatories of the statement.

An 'Open and Transparent' Discourse

Pointing out that the SC most recently garnered flak for “reluctance to intervene in a timely manner to avert the migrant crisis during lockdown”, the statement urges the apex court to take note of the concerns and to “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.”
Statement condemning initiation of contempt proceedings against Prashant Bhushan

Free and Fearless Public Discussion

The signatories insist that the Supreme Court must be open to free and fearless public discussion. They also point out that criminal contempt as an offence has become redundant in many functioning democracies like USA and UK.

Further asking the top court to reconsider its decision to initiate suo-moto contempt proceeding against Bhushan, the signatories go on to quote the late senior advocate Vinod A Bobde, who was CJI SA Bobde’s own elder brother:

“We cannot countenance a situation where citizens live in fear of the Court’s arbitrary power to punish for contempt for words of criticism on the conduct of judges, in or out of court.”     
Late advocate Vinod A Bobde, as quoted in the statement

The Supreme Court had, on Tuesday, 21 July, initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against advocate Prashant Bhushan over his alleged derogatory tweets against the judiciary.

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Published: 27 Jul 2020, 12:49 PM IST
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