On 1 February, activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan had said AG ‘misled the court’ about PM-chaired committee approving M. Nageshwar Rao as interim CBI chief.
New Delhi: Attorney General K.K. Venugopal has filed a contempt plea against activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, accusing him of making a “wholly false statement” against him in connection with the case of the appointment of the CBI director.
The plea has been filed on the basis of Bhushan’s assertion that the AG had “misled the court and perhaps submitted fabricated minutes of the HPC meeting” at a previous hearing in the case.
Bhushan tried to lower judiciary’s prestige
On 1 February, immediately after the AG told the Supreme Court that senior CBI officer M. Nageshwar Rao had been selected as interim director on the basis of a decision taken by the high-powered committee (HPC) on 11 January, Bhushan had taken to social media, accusing the government’s top lawyer of having misled the court.
“I have just confirmed personally from the Leader of Opposition Mr Kharge that no discussion or decision in HPC meet was taken re appt of Nageswara Rao as interim Director CBI. The govt appears to have misled the court and perhaps submitted fabricated minutes of the HPC meeting!,” Bhushan had tweeted.
He went on to claim: “See the letter of LOP Kharge re the unilateral appointment of Nageswara Rao as interim Director CBI by govt, w/o going through HPC of PM, CJI & LOP. Yet govt produced minutes of meeting saying that HPC approved appt. Seems govt gave fabricated minutes to court! Contempt of Court! (SIC)”
In his contempt plea, Venugopal has claimed that Bhushan had tried to lower the prestige of the highest judiciary by making a false claim, especially since the decision of the HPC involved a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.
Along with his petition, Venugopal has also submitted some parts of the minutes of the January 9 and 10 meetings of the HPC headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and comprising Justice A.K. Sikri — who represented CJI Ranjan Gogoi at the meeting — as well as Congress’ leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge. The HPC had signed the minutes of the meeting and “therefore, each of the members of the committee had knowledge of the decision taken, even if it be by a majority”.
Shaking the foundations of justice delivery system
“The attack on the Attorney General in such a brazen, wilfull (sic) and malicious manner would tend to shake the very foundation of the justice delivery system,” the AG’s plea said.
“Whether the false statements made in the tweets on 1st February, 2019 were for publicity or for any other reason makes no difference whatsoever, as the attempt is to pollute the pure stream of justice.
“If litigants and counsels are allowed to denigrate the law officers through false statements, and that too on public platforms, either to gain publicity or to attempt to influence the course or outcome of pending legal proceedings, the administration of justice would be severely impacted.
“The action of the state respondent herein in attributing to the Attorney General malafides as well as dishonesty, by misleading the court and producing a fabricated document before the court, interferes with the due process of law and the independence and freedom of counsel to place the correct and true facts before the court. To accuse Counsel of both misleading the court and producing fabricated evidence before the court is an allegation of serious offence against the Counsel, which alleged offence could be covered by the Section 195 of the Code of Civil Procedure as well as Section 466 or 471 of the Indian penal code which provide for imprisonment and fine.”
Using public platform for sub-judice matter
The AG has also pointed out that the allegation made by Bhushan was on a public platform, in a matter which is still sub-judice.
“If at all, the respondent had any grievance, the same should have been placed before this hon’ble court during the course of the hearing on 1 February 2019 or on the next date of hearing…. the acts of the so-called Public Interest petitioner (the respondent herein) in utilising a public platform to make false allegations with regard to a pending case are calculated and intended to interfere with, and obstruct the course of justice,” he added.