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Facing Contempt Case, Prashant Bhushan Says Sorry for Just One Remark; 'Why No Helmet by CJI?'

Prashant Bhushan (Reuters File)

Prashant Bhushan (Reuters File)

The extensive affidavit by Bhushan, in response to the Supreme Court's notice of criminal contempt, has not even once mentioned "regret" or "apology" and rather stood firm on his assertions regarding last four CJIs and their alleged role in destruction of democratic values.

In his 134-page affidavit on criminal contempt, advocate Prashant Bhushan has regretted only one thing -- that he did not notice the motor cycle was on a stand when he tweeted on CJI SA Bobde riding a Rs 50-lakh bike "without a helmet".

Apart from this, the extensive affidavit by Bhushan, in response to the Supreme Court's notice of criminal contempt, has not even once mentioned "regret" or "apology" and rather stood firm on his assertions regarding last four CJIs and their alleged role in destruction of democratic values.

"At the outset I admit that I did not notice that the bike was on a stand and therefore wearing a helmet was not required. I, therefore, regret that part of my tweet. However, I stand by the remaining part of what I have stated in my tweet," read his affidavit.

He cited instances ranging from Sahara-Birla diary case to judge Loya death, from Kahiko Pul suicide case to medical admission scam, from Master of Roster controversy to NRC in Assam, from abrogation of Article 370 to Citizenship Amendment Act, to justify his statements regarding alleged failure by the judiciary.

Bhushan also reproduced speeches delivered and opinions written by several sitting and retired judges such as Justices DY Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta, Madan B Lokur and AP Shah to corroborate that his concerns regarding stifling of dissent, majoritarianism and authoritarianism had been echoed by them also.

The affidavit tried to explain three broad categories of Bhushan's assertions -- "democracy has been substantially destroyed during the last six years; by its acts of commissions and omissions, the Supreme Court has allowed the emasculation of our democracy; and the role played by the last four CJIs has been very critical in the above mentioned process”.

Bhushan substantiated his two contentious tweets from June that prompted the top court to issue a show-cause notice of criminal contempt against the activist-lawyer on July 24.

Bhushan said his tweet about CJI Bobde riding a motorcycle was to underline his anguish at the non-physical functioning of the Supreme Court for last more than 3 months, with hardly any cases being effectively heard, which impeded access to justice.

Besides, he added that Chief Justice is not the Court and a bona fide critique of the actions of the CJI cannot and do not scandalise the Court.

"To assume and suggest that 'CJI is the SC, and SC is the CJI', is to undermine the institution of SC," stated the affidavit.

His affidavit further said that his tweet about last four CJIs was his "bonafide impression" about them and it is his considered opinion that the apex court allowed destruction of democracy and such expression of opinion however "outspoken, disagreeable or unpalatable" can't constitute contempt.

"This of course is my bonafide opinion which people can and may disagree with. In any healthy democracy, there needs to be a free and frank discussion about the role of any and every institution, especially an institution as critical as the Supreme Court," Bhushan told the court.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra will hear the suo motu contempt case on August 5.

After the hearing on July 24, Twitter Inc, which has also been a made a party to this case, has now disabled the two contentious tweets by Bhushan.

first published:August 03, 2020, 11:01 IST
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