Supreme Court hopes 4-judge news meet was 'first and last'
The Supreme Court said on Monday it hoped the unprecedented news conference held by four sitting judges on January 12, 2018, to voice concerns about the judiciary was the “first and last” one.
“We hope it was the first and 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.
“Truth can be the defence to the judges also, but they are bound by their judicial norms, ethics, and code of conduct,” the three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari said.
Four senior judges of the Supreme Court had held the news conference to voice concern about the opaque manner in which politically sensitive cases were being assigned by the then Chief Justice, Dipak Misra. One of the cases concerned the mysterious death of special CBI Judge B.H. Loya. The CJI had marked it to Justice Arun Mishra.
Heading the bench that convicted Prashant Bhushan for criminal contempt and handed the sentence on Monday, Justice Mishra said: “The contemnor has tried to justify the averments made on the basis of the Press Conference dated 12.01.2018 of the four seniormost judges of this court. Concept of equality before law (is) what is permissible not as to what is impermissible.
“It is settled that negative equality cannot be claimed as there is no concept of negative equality.”
The court said it was not concerned with any criticism or statements made by former judges in the present contempt case against Bhushan, and that it was required to decide the cases on the basis of the law.
“The court cannot abdicate its duty and has to be uninfluenced by the statements published in various articles published in the media and opinions expressed therein.,” the bench said.
“Dr Dhavan, learned senior counsel (for Bhushan), has submitted that this court will be criticised in case it inflicts any punishment upon Shri Prashant Bhushan. We are unmoved by this submission. While exercising our judicial functions, we cannot take into consideration whether we will be praised or criticised for the judgment which we render.
“We are required to decide the cases on the basis of the law as it correctly stands, in our perception and understanding. We are not expected to decide the matter on the basis as to whether there will be criticism of the judgment or not. We have to be always ready for its fair criticism,” the court said.
It then handed Bhushan a fine of Re 1, which he has to pay by September 15.