IN RE: PRASHANT BHUSHAN AND ANOTHER Vs. IN RE: PRASHANT BHUSHAN AND ANOTHER
LAWS(SC)-2020-8-15
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Decided on August 14,2020

In Re: Prashant Bhushan And Another Appellant
VERSUS
In Re: Prashant Bhushan And Another Respondents


Referred Judgements :-

IN RE READ AND HUGGONSON [REFERRED TO]
BAHAMA ISLANDS [REFERRED TO]
NEWSPAPERS ON CONTEMPT OF COURT [REFERRED TO]
NICHOLLS [REFERRED TO]
QUEEN VS. GRAY [REFERRED TO]
UNITED KINGDOM [REFERRED TO]
EBRAHIM MAMOOJEE PAREKH V. KING EMPEROR [REFERRED TO]
IN RE POLLARD [REFERRED TO]
IN RE VALLABHDAS [REFERRED TO]
NATIONAL LAWYERS CAMPAIGN FOR JUDICAL TRANSPARENCY AND REFORMS AND OTHERS VS. UNION OF INDIA [REFERRED TO]
R. VS. ALMON,1765 WILMOT'S NOTES [REFERRED TO]
RE: VIJAY KURLE AND ORS [REFERRED TO]
BRAHMA PRAKASH SHANNA VS. STATE OT UTTAR PRADESH [REFERRED TO]
SUKHDEV SINGH VS. HONBLE C J S TEJA SINGH AND THE HONBLE JUDGES OF THE PEPSU HIGH COURT AT PATIALA [REFERRED TO]
HARI LAL DIXIT VS. STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH [REFERRED TO]
STATE OF WEST BENGAL VS. NRIPENDRA NATH BAGEHI [REFERRED TO]
E M SANKARAN NAMBOODRIPAD VS. T NARAYANAN NAMBIAR [REFERRED TO]
C K DAPHTARY VS. O P GUPTA [REFERRED TO]
BARADAKANTA MISHRA STATE OF ORISSA VS. REGISTRAR OF ORISSA HIGH COURT:SHRI BARADAKANTA MISHRA [REFERRED TO]
S MULGAOKAR VS. UNION OF INDIA [REFERRED TO]
P N DUDA VS. P SHIV SHANKER [REFERRED TO]
PRITAM PAL VS. HIGH COURT OF MADHYA PRADESH JABALPUR [REFERRED TO]
PRESIDENT OF INDIA VS. VINAY CHANDRA MISHRA [REFERRED TO]
D C SAXENA VS. HONBLE THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA [REFERRED TO]
SUPREME COURT BAR ASSOCIATION VS. UNION OF INDIA [REFERRED TO]
PALLAV SHETH VS. CUSTODIAN [REFERRED TO]
ARUNDHATI ROY VS. UNION OF INDIA [REFERRED TO]
G N VERMA VS. HARGOVIND DAYAL [REFERRED TO]



Cited Judgements :-

HANUMAN ANANDRAO PENDAM VS. STATE OF MAHARASHTRA [LAWS(BOM)-2022-3-219] [REFERRED TO]


JUDGEMENT

- (1.)A petition came to be filed in this Court by one Mahek Maheshwari bringing to the notice of this Court, a tweet made by Mr. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, alleged contemnor No.l praying therein to initiate contempt proceedings against the alleged contemnors for wilfully and deliberately using hate/scandalous speech against this Court and entire judicial system. The Registry placed the said petition on the Administrative side of this Court seeking direction as to whether it should be listed for hearing or not, as consent of the learned Attorney General for India had not been obtained by the said Shri Maheshwari to file the said petition. After examining the matter on the Administrative side, this court on the administrative side directed the matter to be listed on the Judicial side to pass appropriate orders. Accordingly, the petition was placed before us on 22.7.2020. On the said date, we passed the following order:
"This petition was placed before us on the administrative side whether it should be listed for hearing or not as permission of the Attorney General for India has not been obtained by the petitioner to file this petition. After examining the matter on administrative side, we have directed the matter to be listed before the Court to pass appropriate orders. We have gone through the petition. We find that the tweet in question, made against the CJI, is to the following effect :-

"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!"

Apart from that, another tweet has been published today in the Times of India which was made by Shri Prashant Bhushan on June 27, 2020, when he tweeted, "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, and more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs."

We are, prima facie, of the view that the aforesaid statements on Twitter have brought the administration of justice in disrepute and are capable of undermining the dignity and authority of the Institution of Supreme Court in general and the office of the Chief Justice of India in particular, in the eyes of public at large.

We take suo motu cognizance of the aforesaid tweet also apart from the tweet quoted above and suo motu register the proceedings.

We issue notice to the Attorney General for India and to Mr. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate also.

Shri Sajan Poovayya, learned senior counsel has appeared along with Mr. Priyadarshi Banerjee and Mr. Manu Kulkarni, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the Twitter, and submitted that the Twitter Inc., California , USA is the correct description on which the tweets were made by Mr. Prashant Bhushan. Let the reply be also filed by them.

List on 05.08.2020."

(2.)In response to the notice issued by this Court, both the alleged contemnors have filed their respective affidavit-in-reply. Mr. Prashant Bhushan, the alleged contemnor No. 1, has filed a detailed affidavit running into 134 pages, which along with the Annexures runs into 463 pages.
(3.)The main contention of the alleged contemnor No. 1 is, that insofar as the first tweet is concerned, it was made primarily to underline his anguish at the non-physical functioning of the Supreme Court for the last more than three months, as a result of which fundamental rights of citizens, such as those in detention, those destitute and poor, and others facing serious and urgent grievances were not being addressed or taken up for redressal. It is contended, that it was made to highlight the incongruity of the situation where the CJI on one hand keeps the court virtually in lockdown due to COVID fears, with hardly any cases being heard and those heard, also by an unsatisfactory process through video conferencing and on the other hand is seen in a public place with several people around him without a mask. It is his submission, that expressing his anguish by highlighting the said incongruity and the attendant facts, the first tweet cannot be said to constitute contempt of court. It is submitted, that if it is regarded as a contempt, it would stifle free speech and would constitute an unreasonable restriction on the right of a citizen under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
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