Contempt and the Court

Contempt and the Court

Prashant Bhushan has been held guilty of making derogatory remarks  against the judges of the Supreme Court. He is one of the founding members of the Aam Aadmi Party and is a prominent civil rights lawyer. His family has a history in politics. Shanti Bhushan, his father, was a union minister in the BJP-led Morarji Desai government.

The hearing in the contempt case against  lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Thursday concluded with the supreme court giving him time till Aug 24th to file an “unquestioning apology”, if he so desires.

Contempt proceedings have been initiated against him because of the two tweets made by him. In his defense, Prashant said that criticizing the judges of the Supreme Court, does not imply the dishonor of the Supreme Court in any way.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gawai, and Krishna Murari have held Prashant guilty of contempt.

Hanging question: is this contempt ? 3 Judges think it is, scores of legal luminaries disagree!

The court has taken the decision in ‘suo moto’ cognizance. However, the administrative decision to do so has not been made available for either scrutiny or review. The court has relied on Article 129 of the Constitution, bypassing the Contempt of Courts Act. Article 129 of the constitution says that being a court of record, it has the power to convict for contempt. Not every contempt has to be prosecuted. This will be a decision which the Attorney general takes in Public interest.

The most dangerous implication of this judgment is the assumed power of the Supreme Court. The assumed power is something that allows the opening of the doors of the court at will and punish for contempt.

The judgement is considered erroneous since it is unconstitutional to be held guilty of a crime without the formation of a charge.

Ashish Satyam, Newsnet One Intern, St Xavier’s College (SXCMT) Patna

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