New Delhi: A group of 131 prominent citizens, including former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B. Lokur and Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav, released a statement Monday, expressing solidarity with activist-advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was issued a contempt notice by the SC last week.
Former #SupremeCourt judge Madan B Lokur and 130 well known citizens call upon the Supreme Court "in the interest of justice and fairness and to maintain the dignity of the Supreme Court of India" to withdraw criminal contempt proceedings against Adv Prashant Bhushan. pic.twitter.com/GlOFMZbaw6
— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) July 27, 2020
The statement called upon the apex court to withdraw the contempt proceedings against Bhushan “in the interest of justice and fairness and to maintain the dignity of the Supreme Court of India”.
It also raised concerns about the SC’s “reluctance” to carry out its “constitutionally mandated role as a check on governmental excess and violation of fundamental rights of the people by the state”.
“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 Mr. Bhushan, but by all stakeholders in the Indian democratic and constitutional set-up,” read the statement.
It added that the Supreme Court must be open to public discussion without the fear of retribution.
“The principle that criticism of the judiciary should not be stifled by indiscriminate use of the power of contempt has been recognised by the Supreme Court as well as by academics and advocates of repute,” the solidarity statement said.
The 131 signatories of the statement include historian Ramachandra Guha, former Delhi High Court judge Justice A.P. Shah, author Arundhati Roy, activist Harsh Mander, lawyer Indira Jaising, among several others.
Contempt notice to Bhushan over 2 tweets
The Supreme Court issued a contempt notice to Bhushan on 22 July, for two of his tweets on the incumbent and former chief justices of India.
In one of his tweets on 27 June, Bhushan had written about the “role of the Supreme Court” in the “destruction” of democracy during the last 6 years, and had also mentioned the “role of the last 4 CJIs” in it.
In another tweet, on 29 June, Bhushan had commented on Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde astride a Harley Davidson bike. He had questioned the CJI for riding a bike without a helmet and a face mask, while “he keeps the SC in lockdown mode”.
Within 72 hours of the contempt notice, Bhushan’s tweets were withheld by Twitter without any such order from the court.