SC to consider larger questions in 2009 contempt case against Prashant Bhushan and journalist Tarun Tejpal

The Supreme Court Monday said it would consider certain larger questions in the 2009 contempt case against activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan and journalist Tarun Tejpal as the issue before it has wide ramifications.

The top court said it would like to hear arguments from the lawyers as to what should be the process which should be followed in contempt cases where allegations are being levelled against judges.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said it would like to hear the counsels on whether such statements can be made and the procedure to be adopted for dealing with them.

The apex court in November 2009, had issued a contempt notice to Bhushan and Tejpal for allegedly casting aspersions on some sitting and former top court judges in an interview to a news magazine. Tejpal was the editor of the magazine.

Bhushan told the court on Sunday that making corruption charges against the judges would not amount to contempt of court and mere utterance of corruption charge could not be contempt of court.

The top court asked senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan — appearing for Bhushan — Shanti Bhushan and Kapil Sibal to address it on three issues — whether such statements can be made, in what circumstances they can be made and what is the procedure to be adopted with respect to sitting and retired judges.

The bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, posted the matter for next hearing on August 24.

At the outset, Dhavan said the court should consider certain questions and the matter should be heard by a larger bench.

Dhavan also referred to the recent judgement in which Bhushan was held guilty of contempt for his two derogatory tweets against the judiciary and said the lawyer intends to file a review petition against the August 14 verdict.

He told the court that it appears that August 14 judgment suffers from many imbalances as in some parts the verdict says that allegations against judges “per se” does not constitute contempt.

Sibal, appearing for Tarun Tejpal, then said the matter should be given quietus (discharged).

The bench said that even the court wants to give the case a quietus but it there are certain questions which need consideration.

Dhavan said the questions posed by the court were very “meaningful” and suggested that the matter be examined by a constitution bench.

Shanti Bhusan sought adjournment of the matter by two weeks when the physical hearing is likely to be resumed.

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