India Supreme Court: Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt for tweets


India’s Supreme Court Friday held senior lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court for his tweets criticizing the Chief Justice of India and the judiciary.

The order was passed by a bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai, and Krishna Murari. The apex court is yet to decide on the quantum of punishment, and the hearing on the sentence is scheduled for August 20.

The court had issued notice to Bhushan July 22 on his posts on Twitter. It had asked Bhushan and Twitter to file a reply by August 5.

“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,” said the court in its order.

The Supreme Court initiated suo motu )on its own) contempt proceedings against Bhushan for his tweets on June 27 that alleged that the last four chief justices of India had played a role in the “destruction of democracy” during undeclared “emergency” for the last six years.

Another tweet on June 29 had a photograph of Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde riding a Harley Davidson. Bhushan had said that the CJI was riding a bike “while keeping the apex court in lockdown and denying citizens their right to access to justice”.

Such expression of opinion, however outspoken, disagreeable or however unpalatable against some, cannot constitute contempt of court,” Bhushan had told the court.

He had said in his affidavit: “Though the Superior Courts, especially the Supreme Court, have been entrusted with the responsibility by our Constitution to safeguard democracy and our fundamental rights and ensure proper functioning of regulatory institutions, it can be seen that in the last six years, as the spirit of democracy was being extinguished in this country by throttling of fundamental rights and transgressions of delineated powers by the executive and legislature and subverting of our institutions, the Supreme Court largely failed in its duty to protect these and thus failed to prevent the subversion of our democracy.”