SC Defers 2009 Contempt Case Against Prashant Bhushan

SC: Deprivation of property right only through procedure established by Law

In a 2009 case involving comments by lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan on judges, the Supreme Court today requested Chief Justice SA Bobde to place it before an “appropriate bench”. The contempt case was initiated on remarks made by Mr. Bhushan about judicial corruption in an interview to Tehelka magazine in 2009 and is to be heard on 10th September 2020.

The case involves Bhushan’s interview to Tehelka magazine 11 years ago, in 2009, in which he had made allegations of corruption in the Supreme Court and said half of the previous 16 chief justices were corrupt. The contempt of court case was then filed by advocate Harish Salve.

Mr. Bhushan had explained in his written submissions to the court that, “Allegation of corruption per se cannot be contempt because the same pertains to criticism of a judge for a biased dispensation of justice and would in all cases require further investigation before such allegations are brushed aside at the threshold.” He had said truth was a defence under Section 13 (b) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971[i].

He further clarified in his written submission that “Corruption in public life has a wide and expansive definition. Corruption is not restricted to pecuniary gratification alone but various instruments identify its particular forms such as bribery, embezzlement, theft, fraud, extortion, abuse of discretion, favouritism, nepotism, clientelism, conduct creating or exploiting conflicting interests.”

This case was suddenly listed before Justice Mishra’s Bench recently after an eight-year hiatus and was requested to be heard as the court has raised several questions to be examined in the case, including whether one can go public with allegations of corruption against judges.