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What Prashant Bhushan Said To SC In Reply Of Contempt Case?

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

In rather surprising action, the supreme court of india had initiated the suo motu contempt proceedings against Activist lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, the similar notice was also issued to Twitter India. The contempt case against Prashant Bhushan is reportedly based on his two tweets criticizing the judiciary. The first tweet is from 29 June 2020. A Picture of CJI SA Bobde in his home town Nagpur sitting on a harley davidson bike went viral on social media. Bhushan tweeted the picture and 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!”
In another tweet On June 26,2020, he had said that, “When future historians look back at the last six 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 destructions and more particularly the role of last 4 CJIs”
Following Bhushan’s tweet on June 29 criticizing CJI SA Bobde, a Guna based advocate Mahek Maheshwari had filed a petition in the supreme court asking it to initiate the contempt proceedings against Prashant Bhushan and Twitter India. He alleged that Bhushan passed the derogatory comments on CJI SA Bobde Deliberately and wilfully.
The SC Bench while hearing the matter had asked Prashant Bhushan to file a reply by August 5. Bhushan who filed his reply Yesterday, has detailed his explanation on the comments/ tweets he made. Replying to the contempt proceedings against him, he said that bonafide criticism of the manner and the functioning of the Supreme Court, ‘however outspoken, undesirable and unpalatable’ it is, cannot constitute Contempt of court.
Tweet about CJI Bobde – ‘Underlining anguish at the non-physical functioning of court’.
Regarding his tweet about Chief Justice of India, S A Bobde, Bhushan said that  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. The fact about the CJI being seen in the presence of many people without a mask was meant to highlight the incongruity of the situation where the CJI (being the administrative head of the Supreme Court) 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) is on the other hand seen in a public place with several people around him without a mask. The fact that he was on a motorcycle costing 50 lakhs owned by a BJP leader had been established by documentary evidence published on social media. The fact that it was in Raj Bhavan had also been reported in various sections of the media My expressing 3 anguish by highlighting this incongruiry and the attendant facts cannot be said to constitute contempt of court. If it were to be so regarded, it would stifle free speech and would constitute an unreasonable restriction on Article l9(1)a of the Constitution’
2. Talking about his second tweet about last 4 CJIs he said, ” it has three distinct elements, each of which is his bonafide opinion about the state of affairs in the country in the past six years and the role of the Supreme Court and in particular the role of the last 4 CJIs. He says, ” The first part of the tweet contains my considered opinion that democracy has been substantially destroyed in India during the last six years. The second part is my opinion that the Supreme Court has played a substantial role in allowing the destruction of our democracy and the third part is my opinion regarding the role of the last 4 Chief Justice’s in particular in allowing it.”
He says in the reply,  Such expression of opinion however outspoken, disagreeable or however unpalatable Some, cannot constitute contempt of court. This proposition has been laid down by several judgments of this court and in foreign jurisdictions such as Britain, USA and Canada. It is the essence of a democracy that all institutions, including the judiciary function for the citizens and the people of this country, and they have every right to freely and fairly discuss the state of affairs of an institution and build public opinion in order to reform the institution.
Explaining his tweet he says his tweet on the last 4 CJIs is the bonafide impression about the manner and functioning of the Supreme court in the past years and especially about the role of the last 4 chief Justices have played vis a vis their role in being a check and balance on the powers of the executive, their role in ensuring that the supreme court functions in a transparent and accountable manner and was constrained to say that they, contributed to undermining democracy.

He further says that CJI is not the court and thus raising questions on his action outside the court does not amount to scandalising the court or lowering the authority of the court. He says,”The chief Justice is not the court, and that raising issues of concern regarding the manner in which a CJI conducts himself during “court vacations,’, or raising issues of grave concern regarding the manner in which four CJIs have used, or failed to use, their powers as,,Master of the Roster” to allow the spread of authoritarianism, majoritarianism, stifling of dissent, widespread political incarceration, and so ofl, cannot and does not amount to “scandalising or lowering the authority of the court

Furthermore he lists all the instances where not only the retired but also the sitting judges of the court have commented on dissent and democracy. He also makes a reference to the press conference conducted by 4 justices of the Supreme Court saying democracy is in a danger.

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