Bhushan joins plea in Supreme Court in opposition to ‘chilling’ impact of contempt regulation on free speech

Written by Ananthakrishnan G
| New Delhi |

Published: August 2, 2020 4:45:32 am

Prashant Bhushan, supreme court, contempt law, free speech, Prashant Bhushan contempt law, indian express Initially, the courtroom took cognisance of a grievance made to it concerning a June 29 tweet by Bhushan commenting on images of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde seated on a Harley Davidson bike.

Less than 10 days after the Supreme Court issued him a contempt discover for 2 of his tweets on the judiciary, advocate Prashant Bhushan has moved the highest courtroom saying the motion constitutes an “infringement” of his “proper to life and liberty below Article 21 of the Constitution”.

Bhushan, together with veteran journalists N Ram and Arun Shourie, additionally filed a separate plea difficult the Constitutional validity of Section 2(c)(i) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

This provision defines what quantities to legal contempt: publication of any matter that “scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to decrease the authority of any courtroom.”

Bhushan additionally raised questions on the “sudden itemizing” of one other 2009 legal contempt matter in opposition to him for listening to within the coming week saying it “smacks of malice in regulation” and “displays the intention…to by some means or the opposite convict the Petitioner for contempt”.

An SC bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari had issued discover to Bhushan and Twitter Incorporated, USA, on July 22 taking exception to the tweets and stating that they “introduced the administration of justice in disrepute”.

Initially, the courtroom took cognisance of a grievance made to it concerning a June 29 tweet by Bhushan commenting on images of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde seated on a Harley Davidson bike.

However, in the course of the listening to on July 22, the courtroom additionally took cognisance of one other tweet by Bhushan dated June 27 concerning the judiciary which it stated was carried by The Times of India.

The courtroom will hear the matter on August 5.

On August 4, the SC will even hear a 2009 legal contempt case in opposition to Bhushan and former editor of Tehelka journal Tarun Tejpal over statements by the previous in opposition to some former Chief Justices of India after which Chief Justice S H Kapadia in an interview to the journal.

Bhushan, in his writ petition filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal, urged the courtroom to declare the motion of entertaining what he claimed was “a faulty contempt petition filed by one Mahek Maheshwari on the executive facet and thereafter itemizing it on the judicial facet on 22.07.2020 as unconstitutional, unlawful, void and non-est”.

He stated Maheshwari’s petition was faulty because the consent of the Attorney General or the Solicitor General had not been obtained opposite to the mandate of Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971 and the foundations laid down in 1975.

So, as per the Supreme Court Rules 2013, Bhushan stated, the “faulty contempt petition” should have been returned.

As per its order on July 22, Bhushan stated, the courtroom took “suo motu” cognizance of the tweet alluded to in Maheshwari’s petition, in addition to one other tweet of his that appeared within the Times of India newspaper that day. “It is most respectfully submitted that this Hon’ble Court erred in taking suo motu cognizance of a petition that was faulty to start with and due to this fact, what couldn’t have been completed instantly was completed not directly”, Bhushan added.

The plea which has the Secretary General of the SC as respondent stated that “the motion of the Respondent in unilaterally inserting the contempt petition filed by Shri Maheshwari earlier than the Hon’ble Bench…was opposite to the settled regulation…that the Chief Justice of India is the Master of the Roster”.

On the 2009 case, Bhushan stated, its “sudden look,” with “merely two days discover” isn’t solely inconsistent with SC process however “displays the intention of the Respondent to by some means or the opposite convict the Petitioner for contempt.”

The different plea by him, Ram and Shourie additionally filed by Advocate Jaiswal stated Section 2(c)(i) of the Contempt of Courts Act, is “violative of Articles 19 and 14 of the Constitution of lndia.”

The part is incompatible with preambular values and fundamental options of the Constitution, it violates Article 19(1)(a), is “unconstitutionally and incurably imprecise,” stated their petition.

It doesn’t represent an inexpensive restriction on free speech because it “fails the take a look at of overbreadth…abridges the best to free speech and expression within the absence of tangible and proximate hurt…and.. creates a chilling impact on free speech and expression”, stated the plea.

The petitioners argued that the “offence of “scandalizing the courtroom” is rooted in colonial assumptions which haven’t any place in authorized orders “dedicated to democratic constitutionalism and the upkeep of an open strong public sphere”.

The phrase “scandallses or tends to scandalise” invitations subjective and enormously differing readings and utility which is incapable of being “sure and even-handed,” the plea stated. That’s why, it added, “the offence violates the Article 14 calls for of equal therapy & non-arbitrariness.”

Bhushan, in his particular person plea, has sought recall of the discover issued to him and the orders itemizing the maters for listening to by way of video conferencing within the coming week. Alternatively, he desires the courtroom to not hear them by way of digital mode however solely when bodily hearings resume.

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