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Contempt pleas against Prashant Bhushan: Supreme Court may curb advocates from speaking on cases

Advocate Prashant Bhushan. File  

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to examine the possibility of imposing curbs on advocates airing their views in the media about pending cases and the judges handling them, during a hearing on contempt petitions filed by the government and the Attorney General of India against civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha agreed that “though the flash of cameras and media attention may seem irresistible to some, a line needed to be firmly drawn.” 

The temptation to talk was hard to get over when cameras were trained on you, the Bench observed.

Observing that “freedom carries with it a responsibility”, it noted that some lawyers even used air time to attack judges, whose code of conduct did not allow them to go public. Only one version of the matter was thus heard.

“The judiciary should be protected,” Justice Mishra said. “If the Bar is out to kill the judiciary, what can be done.”

The bench also observed that some lawyers rushed to the media as soon as their petition was filed. While the petition may contain all manner of allegations, and was even likely to be later withdrawn in court, the damage, however, had been done by that time.

Contempt pleas against Prashant Bhushan: Supreme Court may curb advocates from speaking on cases
 

“When a matter is sub judice, what is expected of lawyers? Should they go public and be part of media and TV debate,” the bench asked.

The court asked Mr. Bhushan, who was present in court, to file his reply to the contempt petitions.

Both the government and Attorney General K.K. Venugopal termed as “scandalous” Mr. Bhushan’s February 1 tweets alleging that the government — via the top law officer — misled the apex court about the appointment of M. Nageswara Rao as interim CBI Director. Mr. Bhushan tweeted that the government, through Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, perhaps presented “fabricated” minutes of the high-powered committee meeting of January 9-10.

The government contended that the tweets “wilfully and deliberately” made a false statement in a case pending in court.

“The attack on the Attorney General in such a brazen, wilful and malicious manner would tend to shake the very foundation of the justice delivery system,” Mr. Venugopal contended.

While Mr. Venugopal said he did not want the court to impose any punishment on Mr. Bhushan, the government, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, was of the opposite opinion.

“Everyday, we see just after a judgement is pronounced it is publicly proclaimed that it is a black day, bringing disrepute to the institution,” Mr. Mehta submitted.

A rare occurrence of the Centre and the Attorney-General of India moving back-to-back contempt petitions against noted civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan for his tweets saw the Supreme Court on Wednesday agree to examine the possibility of imposing curbs on advocates airing their views in media about pending cases and the judges who decide them.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 12:55:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-issues-notice-to-prashant-bhushan-on-contempt-plea-by-centre-a-g/article26191546.ece

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