The Supreme Court has issued notice to advocate Prashant Bhushan on a suo motu criminal contempt case registered against him over two of his tweets, saying these had “brought the administration of justice in disrepute”.
The bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, which began hearing the matter Wednesday, said: “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.”
The bench also issued notice to Attorney General K K Venugopal and sought a reply from Twitter Incorporated, USA. It directed that the matter be listed again for hearing on August 5.
The complaint against Bhushan was registered over a June 29 tweet by him on a photo of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde astride a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
While taking up the matter for hearing, the bench also took note of another tweet by Bhushan on June 27 regarding the judiciary which it said was published Wednesday in The Times of India.
“We take suo motu cognizance of the aforesaid tweet also apart from the tweet quoted above and suo motu register the
proceedings,” the bench said.
Seeking the Attorney General’s assistance, it said the petition “was placed before us on the administrative side whether it should be listed for hearing or not as permission of the Attorney General for India has not been obtained by the petitioner to file this petition. After examining the matter on administrative side, we have directed the matter to be listed before the Court to pass appropriate orders”.
The bench had added Twitter India as a party to the matter. Appearing for Twitter, senior advocate Sajan Poovayya submitted that “Twitter Inc., California, USA is the correct description on which the tweets were made” by Bhushan and urged the court to replace Twitter India with it.
He said Twitter had nothing to defend and will act if the court directs it to disable the tweet identified by the Registry. He said Twitter cannot disable a tweet without the court’s order.
Currently, Bhushan is appearing in the Supreme Court for the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, seeking transfer of PM Cares funds to the National Disaster Response Fund. He also represents the Association for Democratic Reforms in a petition challenging the Electoral Bond Scheme.
The top court will also take up on July 24 another contempt matter against Bhushan and former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal. The 2009 matter pertains to statements by Bhushan against former Chief Justices in an interview to Tehelka.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, who was amicus curiae in the 2009 matter, had submitted a report, drawing the court’s attention to the alleged statements. Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani had represented Bhushan in the matter. Jethmalani passed away last year.
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