Supreme Court closes contempt case against Prashant Bhushan and Tarun Tejpal

Proceedings had been initiated against Prashant Bhushan for his remarks against past CJIs

Supreme Court
Image Courtesy:

On August 30, the Supreme Court closed the 2009 contempt case initiated against Advocate Prashant Bhushan and former Tehelkar editor Tarun Tejpal, over Bhushan’s interview given to Tehelka magazine in which he said that several previous Chief Justices of India were corrupt, reported LiveLaw.

A bench comprising Justice Indira Banerjee, Surya Kant and MM Sundresh closed the proceedings initiated for making remarks against past CJIs, in view of the explanation given by Prashant Bhushan and that an apology has been tendered by Tarun Tejpal, as informed by Senior Advocate Kamini Jaiswal appearing for Bhushan and Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Tarun Tejpal.

The bench reportedly stated, “In view of the apology tendered by the contemnors, we do not deem it necessary to proceed with the contempt. The contempt proceedings are dropped.”

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.”

In August 2020, the Supreme Court had found Bhushan guilty of contempt over some of his tweets and fined him a token Re. 1. The Court had held that his tweets were based on distorted facts and constituted a scurrilous/malicious attack on the entire Supreme Court and had the effect of destabilising the very foundation of the judiciary, reported the Indian Express.

The court, while making a final reference to the two tweets, the court stated, “It is not expected of a person who is a part of the system of administration of justice and who owes a duty to the said system, to make such tweets which are capable of shaking the confidence of general public and further making wild allegations in the affidavit thereby further attempting to malign the said institution.”

The court further held that “Fair criticism is not to be silenced, but an advocate has to remind himself/herself, where he/she crosses the zone of propriety, and the Court cannot continuously ignore it, and the system cannot be made to suffer.  When the criticism turns into malicious and scandalous allegations thereby tending to undermine the confidence of the public and the institution as a whole, such a criticism cannot be ignored.”

The court had referred to the press conference held by former senior most judges of the Supreme Court on January 12, 2018. Bhushan had justified his averments based on this press conference. The court opined, “We hope it was the first and the last occasion that the Judges have gone to press, and God gives wisdom to protect its dignity by internal mechanism, particularly, when allegations made, if any, publicly cannot be met by sufferer Judges. It would cause suffering to them till eternity.”


Prashant Bhushan contempt case: The judgment behind the Re. 1 penalty
Prashant Bhushan contempt sentencing: Court should forgive him or warn him, says AG
SC grants Prashant Bhushan time before sentencing
I submit to any penalty which the court may inflict: Prashant Bhushan
SC holds Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt; next hearing to decide sentence
SC to hear 2009 contempt of court case against Prashant Bhushan on merits



Related Articles