Presently the issue related to contempt of court charge faced by Adv Prashant Bhushan (hereinafter referred to as the Contemnor) is gathering momentum and the fact is that he has been held guilty of contempt of Supreme Court and is awaiting punishment, what is next to come, will create history.
It is alleged that the contempt pertains to the old case of allegations against the judges of Supreme Court wherein the Contemnor alleged corruption against them. The Contemnor has recently tweeted in the contemptuous words and expressions against the Chief Justice of India though it is not necessary to go into the details of it because the contents are known to all. It is necessary to understand whether that amounts to contempt as we understand it legally. But before that let us try to understand the meaning of it.
During ongoing discussions with respect to the Contempt of Court, it has become necessary to understand the importance and meaning of the word Contempt as mentioned above in the ordinary parlance and legal parlance. The simple meaning of the word Contempt is showing total disregard or showing disrespect to something which it deserves. There is no straight jacket definition of the word. Also, the legal definition of contempt is given in regard to the Disrespect to the Court. The meaning in legal parlance is much wider than the meaning in ordinary parlance. The Contempt of Court has been accepted and has been given due weightage in almost all the countries of the world with a difference of degree so also the prescribed punishments are different but the common intention behind that is the protection of the Courts against the baseless statements and improper behaviour against the Court which will bring the Court in disrepute and undermine the authority of the Court in any manner whatsoever. The Court is doing the duty of giving justice to the litigants who come to courts with the hopes of getting justice.
It is important to note that the Judiciary is one of the important pillars of the Democratic set up in India. Moreover, the constitution of India has given the due place and importance to Judiciary. The post of the Chief Justice of Supreme Court and other judges are created under the constitution so also the judge in the system is required to be protected from the disrespect and disregard by anybody. Hence there is Contempt of Court Act for their protection. The word Contempt is having the classification of Civil and Criminal contempt as defined in the said Act. So also punishment has been provided in the said Act. The provisions of the Act and the punishment prescribed are known to all as well as the development of the said law in India from time to time is also known to all so we are not getting involved in the law or case law. The Courts have also accepted the genuine and sincere demand of pardon in the cases of Contempts. However, the Contmners are also required to understand that the pardon is not given easily.
Now coming to the present case of the Contemnor Adv Prashant Bhushan, it is necessary to understand that if anybody has a grievance of any kind against the judge there is a remedy provided and one can go by that including the charge of corruption. It is not open to making wild, senseless and baseless allegations against the Judiciary as that will not be in the interest of the system whether contemnor is senior advocate, or junior advocate or any ordinary person. The dignity of the post has to be maintained by all means otherwise it will set up the wrong precedent and the system will suffer which is not a healthy sign. It has become a fashion nowadays to insult the constitutional posts and then demand insincere Pardon. This is an absolutely unacceptable proposition. There has to be discipline in social life also.
The most unfortunate part is that when the Supreme Court has held Adv Bhushan guilty of contempt of court, there is a movement started by some Advocates and others in support of contemnor Adv Prashant Bhushan canvassing that he was right and it is amounting to suppression of freedom of speech and expression. In this regard, it is necessary to take into account the contents of the proposed resolution and some of the points are as under:
1)It is alleged that due to this the Advocates will come under pressure and there will be no criticism of court even if genuine. In this regard, it is necessary to understand that healthy criticism is part and parcel of democracy however the unhealthy criticism is not in the interest of the democratic system.
2) It has been contended that the Contemnor is senior Advocate with excellent standing and reputation. Does it mean that such a person is at liberty to make any statement or pass scurrilous comments against the Court or he is not bound by law or can he claim that he is above law?
3) It is their claim that the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the constitution will be endangered if this proceeding continues because the freedom of criticising the court will be no more existing and the courts will have no restrictions on them. This approach is very disgusting as the fundamental rights granted by the constitution are having a rider of necessary and reasonable restrictions. So obviously it doesn’t allow anybody to insult the court or commit contempt of court.
4) It is alleged that the Court has acted in haste while giving the judgement even though there are other important issues pending before Court in a way they want to say that the Supreme Court has acted revengefully. They further contend that the old matter has been dug up for the said purpose of contempt proceedings.
5) It is further observed that the Court has not observed the principles while deciding the matter.
6) The earlier conduct of the contemnor is very material and it is important to see that the Contemnor is in the habit of initiating contempt proceedings against others.
7) Ultimately, do they want to show that the Supreme Court has gone beyond principles of justice while holding him guilty of contempt of court and if they have such ideas in mind, then what would that amount to? It is a very saddening and disgusting part of the entire episode that the Advocates are trying to pass a resolution to undermine the authority of the Supreme Court of India by adopting and passing such resolution against the decision of the Supreme Court. As per the reports, some of them have filed a petition to stop the judgement. This is another serious problem. This kind of movement must be opposed as much as possible and such action on the part of the group of Advocates is nothing but undermining the authority of the supreme court of India. Indirectly it is an attempt to show that the Contemnor is above law. We will have to read between the lines while considering this move on the part of the said group who are interested to pass said resolution. Moreover, they don’t represent the entire Advocates fraternity.
During the administration of Justice, there is an outburst of emotions from both sides and there are differences of opinion, however, that is sudden and is not intentional but making senseless statements and serious allegations come in the category of criminal contempt of court, particularly when the court has given findings irrespective of the standing of the contemnor.
Author: Advocate A M Sutavane Adhivakta, Pune