Calling the Supreme Court’s decision to initiate suo motu contempt proceedings against lawyer Prashant Bhushan an “attempt at stifling criticism”, a group of 131 prominent citizens, including former Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur and former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah, released a statement of solidarity on Monday.
Arguing that Bhushan only articulated some of the concerns raised about the functioning of the apex court, the statement urged the court to withdraw its case “in the interest of justice and fairness and to maintain the dignity of the Supreme Court of India”.
“An institution as important as the Supreme Court of a country must be open to public discussion without the fear of retribution or action of criminal contempt,” the statement reads.
Bhushan was issued a notice by SC last week after the court initiated fresh contempt proceedings against him for two tweets he posted. A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said Bhushan’s tweets had brought the administration of justice in “disrepute”.
The complaint was registered over a June 29 tweet by Bhushan involving a picture of CJI S A Bobde on a Harley Davidson motorcycle in Nagpur, and one on June 27 regarding the judiciary, which the court said was subsequently published in The Times of India.
The statement noted: “In the past few years, serious questions have been raised against the reluctance of the Supreme Court to play its constitutionally mandated role as a check on government excesses and violation of fundamental rights of people by the state. These questions have been raised by all sections of the society — media, academic, civil society organisations, members of the legal fraternity, and even by sitting and retired judges of the Supreme Court itself. More recently, the Supreme Court’s reluctance to intervene in a timely manner to avert the migrant crisis during the lockdown came under immense public scrutiny.”
Besides Justices Lokur and Shah, senior advocates Anand Grover, C U Singh, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Sanjay Hegde, historian Ramachandra Guha, former CIC Wajahat Habibullah, author Arundhati Roy, and Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India are among the signatories.
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