Former Supreme Court judge, Justice Kurian Joseph, said the court should decide whether a person convicted in a suo motu contempt case should be granted an intra-court appeal as a safeguard “to avoid even the remotest possibility of miscarriage of justice”.
Justice Kurian said persons convicted in ordinary criminal matters got a second chance in the form of an appeal. ‘So, why is a person convicted by the Supreme Court in suo motu contempt proceedings not entitled to another opportunity by way of an appeal?’.
“Under Section 19 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, an intra-court appeal is provided where the order is passed by the single Judge of the High Court and in case it is by the Division Bench, appeal lies to the Supreme Court of India”, he said in a statement.
Civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan was recently convicted in a suo motu contempt proceedings by a three-judge Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra for his tweets . The case was heard via the virtual court system.
“Important cases like these need to be heard elaborately in a physical hearing where only there is scope for a broader discussion and wider participation”, Justice Kurian pointed out.
He said suo motu contempt proceedings, which involved substantial questions of law and fundamental rights, should be heard by a Constitution Bench.
Article 145 (3) of the Constitution mandated that there should be a quorum of minimum five judges for deciding any case involving substantial questions of law.
It was decided by the full court of the Supreme Court to set up a seven-judge Bench to hear the contempt case against former Madras High Court judge, C.S. Karnan.
“The present contempt cases are not cases involving just one or two individuals; but larger issues pertaining to the concept and jurisprudence of the country regarding justice itself”, Justice Kurian said.