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SC holds Prashant Bhushan guilty of Contempt

Topics Covered: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.

SC holds Prashant Bhushan guilty of Contempt:


Context:

The Supreme Court has found lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court for two tweets which it said had shaken the “very foundation of constitutional democracy”.

  • The hearing on the quantum of punishment will be held ‪‪on 20 August.

What were the tweets about?

  1. Bhushan’s first tweet pertained to a picture of Chief Justice SA Bobde in which he is seen sitting on a high-end motorcycle.
  2. In the second tweet, Bhushan gave an opinion on the role of last four chief justices of India in the context of the state of affairs in the country.

What was the rationale behind Supreme Court’s verdict? What necessitated this?

The Court made the following observations:

  • It may be better in many cases for the judiciary to adopt a magnanimously charitable attitude even when utterly uncharitable and unfair criticism of its operations is made out of bona fide concern for improvement.
  • However, when there appears some scheme and design to bring about results which have the tendency of damaging the confidence in our judicial system and demoralize the Judges of the highest court by making malicious attacks, those interested in maintaining high standards of fearless, impartial and unbending justice will have to stand firmly.
  • If such an attack is not dealt with, with the requisite degree of firmness, it may affect the national honour and prestige in the comity of nations.

Why is the contempt law seen as problematic?

The judge himself acts as prosecutor and victim, and starts with the presumption of guilt rather than innocence.

Contempt proceedings or quasi-criminal and summary in nature.

How have other democracies dealt with the question of contempt?

  • British judges often take no notice of personal insults if uttered without malice.
  • US and Canada punish people for contempt only when there is imminent or clear danger to the administration of justice.

More details on the issues and about the Contempt of Court concept:

https://www.insightsonindia.com/2020/07/27/contempt-of-court-4/.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Powers of SC vs HCs wrt Contempt cases.
  2. Constitutional provisions in this regard.
  3. Changes brought about by Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Act, 2006.
  4. Civil vs Criminal contempt.
  5. Rights under Article 19.
  6. Section 10 of The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 is related to?

Mains Link:

Discuss how contempt cases are handled by Supreme Court in India.

Sources: the Hindu and Indian express.