Prashant Bhushan contempt case should be heard by at least a 5-judge bench: Justice Kurien Joseph

The former judge of the Supreme Court said that both the contempt cases against Bhushan involved substantial questions of law


“Men may come and men may go, but the Supreme Court of India should remain forever as the court of supreme justice” – Justice Kurien Joseph (Retd.)

Justice Kurian Joseph, a reputed former Supreme Court judge has responded to the court’s verdict holding Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt of court. He has suggested that there should be a provision for intra-court appeal in verdicts passed by the apex court in suo moto contempt cases to “avoid even the remotest possibility of miscarriage of justice”.

Bhushan was recently convicted for contempt by the Supreme Court in the suo moto case against him for two tweets posted by him which spoke about destruction of democracy and restriction of access to justice caused by the current Chief Justice of India. The Court will hear Bhushan on the sentence on August 20.

Justice Joseph said that important cases such as this one needed to be heard in a physical and public hearing where there is a broader scope for discussion and wider participation. He pointed out that the suo moto contempt case against Justice CS Karnan was decided by a bench of 7 judges. Bhushan’s case was heard by a 3-judge bench.

The former judge of the apex court rightly pointed out that since the case was taken up suo moto by the top most court in the country, there are no avenues of appeal left for the alleged contemnor, in this case, Bhushan and hence the provision of intra-court appeal becomes pertinent since the “convicted person is entitled to have a second opportunity by way of an appeal”.

Under section 19 of the Contempt of Court Act, 1971 if the verdict is passed by a single judge bench of a High Court an intra-court appeal is allowed, to a larger bench and if the decision is given by a Division bench of a high court then the appeal lies with the Supreme Court. But, if the case is taken suo moto by the Supreme Court itself, no such avenue of relief lies with the convicted person.

Citing a latim maxim “fiat Justitia ruat caelum” which translates as “Let justice be done though the heavens fall”, Justice Joseph said, “If justice is not done or if there is miscarriage of justice, heavens will certainly fall”.

Justice Joseph considered both the contempt cases against Bhushan (the other one being a 2009 contempt case filed against him for an interview in Tehelka Magazine whereby he had alleged corruption of Supreme Court judges) involve substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution and hence it should be heard by at least 5 judges as per Article 145 (3) of the Constitution. “the orient contempt cases are not cases involving just one or two individuals; but larger issues pertaining to the concept and jurisprudence of the country regarding justice itself,” read his statement.



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