Lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Wednesday tweeted that Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde had travelled by a chopper provided by the Madhya Pradesh government to visit the Kanha National Park and his hometown at a time the judge was hearing a case on which the fate of the BJP government in the state hinged.
“The CJI avails a special chopper provided by the MP Govt (authorised by the CM) for a visit to Kanha National Park & then to his home town in Nagpur, while an important case of disqualification of defecting MLAs of MP is pending before him. Survival of MP govt depends on this case,” Bhushan tweeted.
Justice Bobde reached Kanha, known for its tigers, on Sunday (a holiday for the court) and left on Tuesday. The court had closed for Dussehra holidays from Monday and will reopen next week.
A source familiar with the Chief Justice said no undue step was taken.
The source said the Chief Justice was “entitled to a chopper, a car, an aircraft and other special facilities in view of his constitutional status”.
The source added that Bhushan’s tweet was mala fide and motivated to denigrate the highest judiciary as part of an orchestrated campaign.
Earlier this year, Bhushan was convicted of criminal contempt of court for tweets against the judiciary, including one about Justice Bobde on a Harley-Davidson bike.
A bench headed by CJI Bobde is hearing a case filed by a Congress MLA against the Madhya Pradesh pro-tem Speaker’s decision to dismiss a disqualification petition he had moved against 22 lawmakers from the party. The Congress MLAs had defected to the BJP to bring down the Kamal Nath government and prop up that of Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
On October 6, a Supreme Court bench headed by CJI Bobde and including Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian had agreed to examine Madhya Pradesh Congress MLA Vinay Saxena’s appeal challenging the pro-tem Speaker’s decision to dismiss the disqualification application moved by him against the 22 Congress legislators.
According to official sources, Chief Justices of India enjoy a unique constitutional status and have access to such privileges. It’s up to the incumbent to decide on using the facilities.
“Moreover, the CJI has Z-plus security, and for security reasons he has a right to such facilities. Supposing he travels in a state government car, will it also be questioned?” a source asked. “If the CJI can travel by government car, then why not a chopper for security reasons?”
The source added: “I don’t see what’s wrong with it. MP (Madhya Pradesh) is also infested with Maoists and the CJI has a threat perception. Every state, Union Territory and the Centre is a litigant in the Supreme Court. By that yardstick, neither the CJI nor any of the judges can utilise any government facilities.”
The government of the state that the CJI is visiting has the responsibility of making travel and logistical arrangements.
The sources said “appropriate action would be considered against Bhushan”.