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Tweets on court's duty, and present CJI found objectionable

Supreme Court issues contempt notices to Prashant Bhushan and Twitter

Apex court observes that statements have brought the administration of justice in disrepute in the eyes of public at large
Prashant Bhushan
Prashant Bhushan
File picture

Our Legal Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 23.07.20, 04:38 AM

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued contempt notices to lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Twitter for two tweets, including one that suggested the top court had a role in the “destruction” of democracy in India “even without a formal Emergency”.

The Supreme Court order also mentioned a tweet by Bhushan about the present Chief Justice of India, S.A. Bobde, and a motorcycle.

The bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Bhushan Gavai and Krishna Murari issued the notices. It sought the assistance of attorney-general K.K. Venugopal and posted the matter for further hearing to August 5.

The court passed the order while converting into suo motu proceedings a petition filed by an advocate, Mahek Maheshwari, seeking contempt proceedings against Bhushan for the tweets.

The following is the operative part of the order passed by the bench on Wednesday:

“This petition was placed before us on the administrative side whether it should be listed for hearing or not as permission of the attorney-general for India has not been obtained by the petitioner to file this petition.

“After examining the matter on administrative side, we have directed the matter to be listed before the court to pass appropriate orders. We have gone through the petition. We find that the tweet in question, made against the CJI, is to the following effect: ‘CJI rides a 50 Lakh motorcycle belonging to a BJP leader at Raj Bhavan Nagpur, without a mask or helmet, at a time when he keeps the SC in Lockdown mode denying citizens their fundamental right to access justice!’

“Apart from that, another tweet has been published today in The Times of India which was made by Shri Prashant Bhushan on June 27, 2020, when he tweeted, ‘When historians in future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction, & more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs.’

“We are, prima facie, of the view that the aforesaid statements on Twitter have brought the administration of justice in disrepute and are capable of undermining the dignity and authority of the Institution of Supreme Court in general and the office of the Chief Justice of India in particular, in the eyes of public at large.

“We take suo motu cognisance of the aforesaid tweet also apart from the tweet quoted above and suo motu register the proceedings. We issue notice to the attorney-general for India and to Mr Prashant Bhushan, advocate also. Shri Sajan Poovayya, learned senior counsel has appeared along with Mr Priyadarshi Banerjee and Mr Manu Kulkarni learned counsel appearing on behalf of the Twitter, and submitted that Twitter Inc, California, USA, is the correct description on which the tweets were made by Mr Prashant Bhushan. Let the reply be also filed by them. List on 05.08.2020.”

Poovayya told the bench that Twitter was ready to delete the contentious tweets if there was a court order to remove them.

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