Prashant Bhushan files response in 2009 case
Allegations of corruption against judges do not automatically amount to contempt of court if the person making the allegations invokes truth as a defence, advocate Prashant Bhushan told the Supreme Court (SC) on Sunday in written submissions for a 2009 contempt-of-court case.
Truth is a valid legal defence in contempt cases as laid down by the SC in its earlier judgments and a person cannot be held guilty for contempt “per se” if he invokes truth as a defence, Bhushan said in his submissions in the case invoked against him for calling past Chief Justices of India (CJI) corrupt in a 2009 interview to Tehelka magazine.
“When such defense (of truth) is invoked, to hold the alleged contemnor guilty of contempt, the court will have to necessarily return a finding that such defence is not in public interest and that the request for invoking such defence is not bona-fide (in good faith),” Bhushan submitted.
In his submissions on Sunday, Bhushan referred to the 2014 judgment of the SC in Subramanian Swamy v. Arun Shourie in which the apex court recognized truth as a valid defence in a contempt case against then editor of Indian Express, Shourie, for an editorial published in 1990 about a sitting SC judge.
In his 2009 interview, Bhushan claimed half of the past 16 CJIs were corrupt. Senior advocate Harish Salve brought this statement to the attention of the court, based on which contempt action was initiated against him in November 2009.
The case was listed by the top court on July 24 more than eight years after it was last heard. Bhushan refused to apologise for his statement but offered an explanation to the court. A three-judge bench headed by justice Arun Mishra, on August 10, rejected Bhushan’s explanation and decided to proceed with the case and hear it in detail. The case is slated to be heard on Monday. Tarun Tejpal, who was then editor of Tehelka magazine, is also a contemnor in the case.
Bhushan also pointed out that corruption in the judiciary was highlighted in Parliamentary Committee reports on prevention of corruption and was also commented upon by former SC judges.
Former Chief Justice of India Justice SP Bharucha is reported to have remarked that 20 percent of the Judges were corrupt. When a lawyer filed a petition in the Rajasthan high court praying that either Justice Bharucha be asked to give names of corrupt judges or contempt action be initiated against him, the high court dismissed the case,” it was submitted.
The submission came days after the SC held the activist lawyer guilty of criminal contempt of court, in another case, for two tweets, one criticising CJI SA Bobde and the other raising questions about the conduct of former CJIs and the court. The tweets were based on distorted facts and have the effect of destabilising the foundation of the Indian judiciary, the SC ruled.
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