SC seeks A-G’s aid in Bhushan case

Prashant Bhushan  

The Supreme Court on Thursday reached out to Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal to act as amicus curiae and assist it with legal questions raised in a contempt case initiated against civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan for his remarks on judicial corruption in Tehelka magazine in 2009.

A three-judge Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar agreed with senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan’s suggestion that Mr. Venugopal needed to be heard first as the case raised several cardinal issues of the right to criticise the judiciary in a public forum.

Questions on law

The case has brought to focus pertinent questions of law, including whether a person who expresses a bona fide opinion about judicial corruption is obliged to prove it or “whether it is enough to show that he bona fide held that opinion”.

The case also involves the issue whether the suo motu powers of the Supreme Court to initiate contempt under Article 129 to curtail free speech and expression is restrained by the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. Mr. Dhavan has strongly pitched for the questions to be referred to a Constitution Bench.

Due process

One of the questions also deals with the violation of due process as suo motu contempt proceedings in the Supreme Court has no provision for appeal.

This is the maiden hearing of the contempt case before the Justice Khanwilkar Bench.

Earlier, the case was listed before another three-judge Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, who retired on September 2.

The Justice Khanwilkar Bench ordered the copies of the case records to be served on the Attorney General and posted the case for hearing on October 12.