Contempt Case: Civil Society Members Express Solidarity With Prashant Bhushan
File image of advocate Prashant Bhushan at the Supreme Court. (Source: PTI)

Contempt Case: Civil Society Members Express Solidarity With Prashant Bhushan

A group of 131 civil society members have issued a statement expressing solidarity with lawyer Prashant Bhushan and sought recall of contempt proceedings initiated against him last week by the Supreme Court.

They expressed concern against the contempt case on Bhushan, calling him “a relentless crusader for the rights of the weakest sections of our society”, the statement said. “In the interest of justice and fairness and to maintain the dignity of the Supreme Court of India, we urge the court to reconsider its decision to initiate suo motu contempt proceedings against Mr. Prashant Bhushan and to withdraw the same at the earliest.”

Senior Advocates Gopal Sankarnarayanan, Chander Uday Singh, Sanjay Hegde, Anand Grover, Justice AP Shah and RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj, all signatories, confirmed the statement to BloombergQuint. Apart from them, signatories include activists, former bureaucrats and members of Parliament.

A bench of the Supreme Court issued a contempt notice to Bhushan and Twitter Inc. last week after he posted two tweets that were critical of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and his predecessors nearly a month ago. The court said prima-facie the tweets can undermine the dignity and authority of the court in general and office of the chief justice in the eyes of public. Twitter has withheld the tweets in India after the first hearing in the case was held on July 22. The case will be next heard on Aug. 5.

The signatories call for an open and transparent discussion on issues such as the top court’s handling of the migrant crisis and not starting physical hearings (even in a limited manner) five months after the start of the pandemic, among others.

“The initiation of contempt proceedings against Mr. Bhushan who had articulated some of these concerns in his tweets, appears to be an attempt at stifling such criticism, not just by Prashant Bhushan but by all stakeholders in the Indian democratic and constitutional setup,” the statement said. “We believe the institution must address these genuine concerns.”

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra is hearing the case, for which it has sought the Attorney General of India’s assistance.

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