In fresh developments in yet another contempt of court case against senior advocate and human rights defender Prashant Bhushan, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case on merits. It is important to distinguish this contempt of court case from that involving two tweets by Bhushan.
This case pertains to Bhushan’s interview to Tehelka magazine in 2009 wherein he had allegedly made statements about corruption against SC judges. Bhushan had allegedly implied that at least half of the 16 previous Chief Justices were corrupt, but he could not provide any evidence to support his claims. The SC took up the case suo moto after senior advocate Harish Salve filed a complaint.
In January 2010, a bench comprising Justices Altamas Kabir, Cyriac Joseph and HL Dattu issued notices to Bhushan as well as Tehelka’s then Editor-in-Chief Tarun Tejpal. The contempt petition was held maintainable by a three-judge bench in November 2010 and after that it was heard 17 times.
On August 4, 2020, the court asked Bhushan’s lawyer if he was willing to tender an apology. But Bhushan declined and offered an explanation instead, insisting that his words were misunderstood. In a press release, Bhushan clarified, “In my interview to Tehelka in 2009 I have used the word corruption in a wide sense meaning lack of propriety. I did not mean only financial corruption or deriving any pecuniary advantage. If what I have said caused hurt to any of them or to their families in any way, I regret the same. I unreservedly state that I support the institution of the judiciary and especially the Supreme Court of which I am a part, and had no intention to lower the prestige of the judiciary in which I have complete faith. I regret if my interview was misunderstood as doing so, that is, lower the reputation of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, which could never have been my intention at all.”
The bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari then reserved order on whether to accept his explanation, stating if it was found unacceptable, they would proceed to hear the case.
On August 10, the SC decided to start hearing the case from August 17.