New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said that it will examine the larger questions involved in contempt cases with respect to allegations of corruption against sitting or former judges and the procedure to be followed in dealing with them.
The court passed this order while hearing the 2009 contempt case against advocate Prashant Bhushan who allegedly spoke about judicial “corruption" in an interview to Tehelka magazine.
The court said that the issues involved in the 2009 contempt case against Mr Bhushan had “wider ramification” and the bench, headed by Justice Mishra, spelt out three issues that need to be examined – Whether allegations of corruption against sitting or former judges can be made in public; the circumstances in which such allegations are made and the procedure to be followed in dealing with such matters.
“In case you have any grievance against any judge, what should be the process? In what circumstances can such allegations be made? When some matter is subjudice, to what extent can matter be argued through media or another mode?” Justice Mishra said.
"We are not on conviction… We want to hear (the case) because if the question is left, then it will not be better for later on… The issues involved have several ramifications and we would like senior lawyers to address them,” the bench, also comprising Justices B.R. Gavau and Krishna Murari, observed even as senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan wanted to address it on the conviction part of the 2009 contempt case against Mr Bhushan.
After Justice Mishra framed the three questions to be addressed by senior lawyers appearing in the matter – Mr Dhavan for Prashant Bhushan, Kapil Sibal for former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal and Harish Salve as amicus curiae assisting the court — Mr Dhavan told the court that he along with Mr Bhushan had framed five questions which they think should be heard by a five-judge constitution bench.
Justice Mishra permitted Mr Dhavan to circulate the questions amongst all the lawyers appearing in the case before the next hearing on August 24, 2020.
At the outset of the hearing, Mr Dhavan pointed to the opposite positions in the August 14 judgment holding Mr Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his two tweets. He said that while its first part holds that the tweets are not contemptuous, it later holds the same tweets to be contemptuous. He said that his client intends to file a plea seeking a review of that judgment.
In the 2009 case, Mr Bhushan attracted contempt for alleging misconduct against then judge Justice S.H. Kapadia for being a part of a forest bench that had decided the case of Niyamgiri mining lease in favour of Sterlite, a subsidiary of Vedanta.
Mr Bhushan in his interview had said that Justice Kapadia should not have been part of the forest bench as he had shares of Sterlite Industries. Justice Kapadia went on to become Chief Justice of India. He passed away on January 4, 2016.