Legal and civil society luminaries issue statement on judgment against Prashant Bhushan

Prashant Bhushan. File   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Several legal and civil society luminaries have issued a statement against the judgment against Prashant Bhushan in a contempt of court matter.

Here is the full text of the statement and full list of signatories:

Statement relating to the judgment against Prashant Bhushan in the contempt of court matter August 17, 2020

We, the undersigned citizens of the country, express anguish and disappointment at the verdict of the Hon’ble Supreme Court finding human rights activist and advocate, Prashant Bhushan, guilty of contempt of court in respect of two tweets. We reiterate our solidarity and support for Prashant Bhushan at this conviction, which we believe is not appropriate.

The tweets were a bona fide expression of concern regarding the functioning of the Supreme Court, which is the fundamental right of every citizen. The intention of that expression was to urge the apex court to restart physical hearings, particularly of matters of national importance. The intention was also to engage with the concerns articulated by many regarding the reluctance of the judiciary to play its constitutionally mandated role as a check on governmental excesses and violations of fundamental rights by the state.

Such criticism, however fiercely expressed, is in fact a plea to the system to engage with these public concerns. Bona fide criticism, especially by a senior member of the bar, must be taken in the spirit in which it is made – to introspect and thereby strengthen the institution of the judiciary. To hold that such criticism shakes the foundations of the judiciary and needs to be dealt with an iron hand, appears to be a disproportionate response which could, in fact, diminish the reputation of the Court . If a tweet by an individual is perceived by the judiciary as destroying public confidence in the institution, it speaks poorly of the judiciary’s confidence in itself. As former Chief Justice Bharucha has said, the court should have broad shoulders to ignore such criticism even if it thinks it is unfair and unwarranted. Further, the undue haste with which the matter has been dealt with via virtual hearing amid the pandemic is extremely concerning and has, in fact, been questioned by former Chief Justice Lodha.

Every institution in a democracy has to earn the public’s affection and respect, and the hallmark of a strong institution is its openness to public scrutiny and commentary. The judgment will have a chilling effect on people expressing critical views on the functioning of the judiciary. Stifling of criticism by stakeholders does not bode well for any institution, especially the highest court in the country.

Signed by more than 3,000 people including:

1. Justice Ruma Pal, former Judge, Supreme Court of India 2. Justice B Sudershan Reddy, former Judge, Supreme Court of India 3. Justice GS Singhvi, former Judge, Supreme Court of India 4. Justice Aftab Alam, former Judge, Supreme Court of India 5. Justice Madan B Lokur, former Judge, Supreme Court of India 6. Justice Gopala Gowda, former Judge, Supreme Court of India 7. Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice, Delhi and Madras High Courts 8. Justice NK Sodhi, former Chief Justice, Kerala and Karnataka High Courts 9. Justice Anjana Prakash, former Judge, Patna High Court 10. Justice Chandru, former Judge, Madras High Court 11. Justice Kannan, former Judge, Punjab & Haryana High Court 12. Justice V. S. Dave, former Judge, Rajasthan High Court 13. A. Selvaraj, IRS (Retd.), Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI 14. A.K. Samanta, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal 15. Abhijit Sengupta IAS (retd), former Secretary Culture GOI Page 2 of 5 16. Achin Vanaik, Retired Professor, New Delhi 17. Admiral Ramdas, Former Chief of Naval Staff 18. Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, (retd) former Chief of Naval Staff 19. Ajit Ranade, Economist 20. Alok Perti, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI 21. Amit Bhaduri, former Professor Emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University 22. Amitabh Behar, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan 23. Amitabh Mathur, IPS (Retd.), Former Director, Aviation Research Centre and Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI 24. Amitabha Pande, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI 25. Anjali Bhardwaj, Social activist 26. Anna Dani, IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra 27. Annie Namala, Social activist 28. Annie Raja, NFIW 29. Ardhendu Sen, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal 30. Arif Ghauri, Former IRS and Governance Adviser, UK Govt 31. Aruna Rodrigues, Agriculture Activist 32. Aruna Roy, Social activist 33. Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM 34. Arundhati Roy, Author 35. Ashok Khosla, environmentalist 36. Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFoS (Retd.), Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat 37. Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia 38. Ashok Vajpeyi, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi 39. Avinash Mohananey, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim 40. B. S. Ajeetha, Advocate, High Court of Madras 41. Brijesh Kumar , IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI 42. Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Coal, GoI 43. Deb Mukharji , IFS (Retd.), Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal 44. Deepak Nayyar, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 45. Deepak Sanan, IAS (Retd.), Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh 46. Devika Singh, Social Activist 47. Dilip Simeon, Author & Historian 48. Dipa Sinha, Right to Food Campaign 49. Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, Former Chairman, Delhi Minorities Commission 50. EAS Sarma, Former Secretary to GOI 51. Elizabeth Seshadri, Advocate, Chennai 52. Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ, human rights activist 53. G. Balachandhran, IAS (Retd.), Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal 54. G. Sankaran, IC&CES (Retd.), Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal 55. G. Sundarrajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal 56. Geetha Thoopal, IRAS (Retd.), Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata 57. Githa Hariharan, Writer 58. Gopalan Balagopal , IAS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal 59. Gourisankar Ghosh, IAS (Retd.), Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI Page 3 of 5 60. Harsh Mander, social activst 61. Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director, People’s Watch and National Working Secretary, Human Rights Defenders’ Alert – India ( HRDA) 62. Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People 63. Hindal Tyabji, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir 64. HS Gujral, IFoS, former Principal Chief Conservator Forests (Head of Forest Force), Punjab. 65. Indira Jaising, senior advocate 66. Jagdeep Chhokar, former Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad 67. Javed Anand, Journalist and civil rights activist 68. Jawhar Sircar, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati 69. Jayati Ghosh, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University 70. Jean Dreze, Economist 71. Julio Ribeiro, IPS (Retd.), Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania 72. K. John Koshy, IAS (Retd.), Former State Chief Information Commissioner, West Bengal 73. K. Saleem Ali, IPS (Retd.), Former Special Director, CBI, GoI 74. K. Sujatha Rao, IAS (Retd.), Former Health Secretary, GoI 75. K.P. Fabian, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Italy 76. Kamal Jaswal, Former Secretary to Govt of India, 77. Kamla Bhasin, Social Activist 78. Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA 79. Kavita Srivastava, PUCL 80. Kavitha Kuruganti, social activist 81. Keshav Desiraju, IAS (Retd.), Former Health Secretary, GoI 82. Koninika Ray, NFIW 83. Lalit Mathur, IAS (Retd.), Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI 84. Lalit Narula, Governing Council, Common Cause 85. Lalita Ramdas, Peace, Human Rights anti-nuclear Activist 86. Lenin Raghuvanshi, Founder, Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) 87. M.G. Devasahayam, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana 88. Madhu Bhaduri, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Portugal 89. Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd.) 90. Maja Daruwala, Senior Advisor, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, 91. Manoj Mitta, Author & Journalist 92. Martin Macwan, Dalit human rights activist 93. Medha Patkar, Social activist 94. Meena Gupta, IAS (Retd.),Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI 95. Meeran C Borwankar , IPS (Retd.), Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research & Development, GoI 96. Mrinal Pande, Journalist and author 97. N H Seervai, senior advocate 98. N. Ram, former Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu 99. N.C. Saxena, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI 100. N.K. Raghupathy, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI 101. Nagalsamy, IAAS (retd.), Former Principal Accountant General of TN and Kerala 102. Najeeb Jung, IAS (Retd.), Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi 103. Nandini Sundar, professor of Sociology, DSE 104. Narendra Sisodia, Retd. Secretary to GOI 105. Navrekha Sharma, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Indonesia Page 4 of 5 106. Navsharan Singh, feminist researcher 107. Nikhil Dey, Social activist 108. Niranjan Pant, IA&AS (Retd.), Former Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General, GoI 109. P. S. S. Thomas, IAS (Rtd), Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission of India 110. P. Sainath, Journalist and author 111. P.K. Lahiri, IAS (Retd.), Former Executive Director, Asian Development Bank 112. P.R. Dasgupta, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI 113. Pamela Philipose, journalist, New Delhi 114. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Author & journalist 115. Paul Divakar, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights 116. Prabhat Patnaik, Emeritus professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University 117. Prakash Singh, former Police Chief, DG BSF,DGP UP & DGP Assam 118. Pranab S. Mukhopadhyay, IAS (Retd.), Former Director, Institute of Port Management, GoI 119. R. Poornalingam, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI 120. R.M. Premkumar, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra 121. Rachel Chatterjee, Special Chief Secretary (Retd) Andhra Pradesh 122. Rahul Khullar, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India 123. Rajeev Bhargava, Professor, CSDS, Delhi 124. Rajmohan Gandhi, Historian and Professor 125. Ravi Chopra, People's Science Institute 126. Ravi Nair, SAHRDC 127. Ravikiran Jain, Sr. Advocate and National President, PUCL. 128. Reetika Khera, economist 129. Romar Correa, Reserve Bank of India Professor of Economics, University of Mumbai 130. Romila Thapar, Historian 131. S. P. Udayakumaran, Pachai Tamizhagam Katchi, People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy 132. S.K. Guha, IAS (Retd.), Former Joint Secretary, Department of WCD, GoI 133. S.P. Ambrose, IAS (Retd.), Former Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI 134. Samar Bagchi, NAPM, West Bengal 135. Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party (India) 136. Sanjay Bhasin 137. Sanjay Joshi, National Convenor, Cinema of Resistance 138. Sanjay Kak, Filmmaker 139. Satish Deshpande, Professor of Sociology, Delhi University 140. Satyavir Singh, IRS (Retd.), Former Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, GoI 141. Sevanti Ninan, Journalist and researcher 142. Shafi Alam, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General, National Crime Records Bureau, GoI 143. Shantha Sinha, Former Chairperson NCPCR 144. Sharad Behar, IAS (Retd.), Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh 145. Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, IFS (Retd.), Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom 146. Siraj Hussain, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI 147. Subodh Lal, IPoS (Resigned), Former Dy. Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI 148. Sundar Burra, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra 149. Suresh K. Goel, IFS (Retd.), Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI 150. Sushil Dubey , IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Sweden 151. Syeda Hameed, Former member, Planning Commission 152. T. M. Krishna, Carnatic vocalist, writer, activist and author 153. Tapan Kumar Bose, Human Rights activist Page 5 of 5 154. Teesta Setalvad, Civil rights activist 155. V. Suresh, Advocate, National General Secretary, PUCL. 156. V.P. Raja, IAS (Retd.), Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission 157. V.S. Ailawadi, IAS (Retd.), Former Vice Chairman, Delhi Development Authority 158. Vandana Shiva, Scientist, RFSTE 159. Vappala Balachandran , IPS (Retd.), Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI 160. Vibha Puri Das, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI 161. Vijaya Latha Reddy, IFS (Retd.), Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI 162. Vikram Lal 163. Vipul Mudgal, Activist and media scholar 164. Wajahat Habibullah, Former Chief Information Commissioner of CIC 165. Yogendra Yadav, Swaraj India 166. Yug Mohit Chaudhary, criminal lawyer

List of signatories continued at-

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