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Bhushan makes proof offer

Option if Supreme Court doesn’t accept first reply
Prashant Bhushan

Our Legal Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 07.08.20, 04:18 AM

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Thursday offered to produce evidence in support of two of his tweets that are facing contempt proceedings if the Supreme Court did not accept his “preliminary reply”.

The top court on July 22 initiated contempt proceedings against Bhushan for two tweets — one about Chief Justice S.A. Bobde posing on a Harley Davidson motorbike and another alleging that democracy had been destroyed in the country during the last six years under the last four Chief Justices.

In an application moved through advocate Kamini Jaiswal, Bhushan also said that a lawyer’s complaint on the basis of which the Supreme Court had issued the suo motu contempt notice mentioned only the June 29 Harley Davidson tweet. Bhushan contended that when the court issued the notice almost a month later on July 22 and heard the matter, it also mentioned the June 27 tweet on democracy. The contempt notice had

referred to a newspaper report that had “mysteriously” appeared the same day on the democracy tweet, Bhushan pointed out.

Bhushan had in his preliminary reply justified the tweets saying it was his “bona fide impressions” and had sought to draw the inference that the Supreme Court had not dealt fairly with matters relating to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute, the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, electoral bonds issued by the Modi government, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and a host of other issues linked to the fundamental rights.

He had said in his affidavit that the Supreme Court had “largely failed in its duty to protect these and thus failed to prevent the subversion of our democracy”.

In his application filed on Thursday, Bhushan has requested the court that in case it is not satisfied with his preliminary reply and wishes to proceed further, he should be allowed to provide further evidence under Section 17(5) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. He has also pleaded for a copy of the complaint of advocate Mehak Maheshwari that forms the basis of the contempt case.

Bhushan has cited the apex court ruling in the 2019 Vijay Kurle case wherein it had held that a contemnor is entitled to all materials on the basis of which he or she is sought to be prosecuted for contempt.

He has also pleaded that the proceedings on the suo motu notice issued to him with respect to the June 27 tweet on democracy be placed before the Chief Justice of India for allocation to another bench, essentially seeking that the two tweets be dealt with separately.

Bhushan’s case is before the bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Bhushan Gavai and Krishna Murari. Justice Mishra is set to retire next month.

“The Hon’ble Court converted Mr Maheswari’s petition which was only as regards the Harley Davidson tweet dated 29.06.2020 into a suo motu petition. Further, Suo Moto cognisance was taken by the Hon’ble Court of a second tweet of 27.06.2020 regarding ‘destruction of democracy’ that was mysteriously published in (a newspaper) on the morning of 22.07.2020 and notice was issued to me as regards that also,” Bhushan said in his application.

According to him, the contempt notice did not include a copy of Maheshwari’s petition. This was in violation of Rule 6(2) of the Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of the Supreme Court, 1975, framed under Article 145 of the Constitution, Bhushan pointed out.

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