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“There’s Thin Line Between Free Speech & Contempt”: SC Tells Prashant Bhushan

Dhavan represented Bhushan, whereas Sibal appeared for Tarun Tejpal, who’s also accused in the contempt case initiated by Salve.

On Tuesday, the Supreme court concluded arguments in the 2009 contempt case against advocate Prashant Bhushan. With a bench of three judges headed by Justice Arun Mishra, the hearing was conducted via video conferencing. The bench spoke to senior lawyers Rajeev Dhavan, Kapil Sibal, and Harish Salve individually on WhatsApp video call.

Dhavan represented Bhushan, whereas Sibal appeared for Tarun Tejpal, who’s also accused in the contempt case initiated by Salve.

The contempt case was registered regarding an interview given by Bhushan to Tehelka where he alleged that half of the past 16 chief justices of India (CJIs) were corrupt. There is a thin line between free speech and contempt, the bench said.

The judges also told Rajeev Dhawan that they seek to balance the right to free speech on one hand and the need to protect the dignity of the judiciary as an institution.

In the last hearing, the top court had said that it is giving some time to the counsels appearing in the matter to prepare and had scheduled the matter for hearing on August 4.

In November 2009, the apex court had issued a contempt notice to Bhushan and Tejpal for allegedly casting aspersions on some sitting and former top court judges in an interview to Tehelka. Tejpal worked as editor of the magazine.

The same bench had issued a notice on 22 July to Bhushan in suo motu cognizance of his remarks and two alleged derogatory tweets against the judiciary, which according to the bench “brought the administration of justice in disrepute”.

Regarding his tweet about Chief Justice of India, S A Bobde, Bhushan said that it was made primarily to underline his anguish at the nonphysical 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.

 

 

 

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