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Supreme Court to hear Prashant Bhushan’s plea on contempt of court

The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that it would hold hearing on counsel Prashant Bhushan’s plea seeking reference to the constitution bench of the question whether bonafide expression of opinion on the extent of alleged corruption in judiciary amounted to contempt of court.

The apex court bench of Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Cyriac Joseph and Justice H.L. Dattu agreed to hold the hearing after counsel Prashant Bhushan submitted to the court two questions dealing with contempt jurisdiction of the court in the event of expression of bonafide opinion on the extent of corruption in judiciary.

Bhushan made the plea at the outset of the hearing of a contempt of court petition against him.

The question that Bhushan wanted to be refereed to the constitution bench included “whether the expression of bonafide opinion about the extent of corruption in any section of judiciary would amount to contempt of court”.

He also wanted an answer from the constitution bench on “whether the person who expresses such opinion about the extent of corruption in a section of the judiciary is obliged to prove that his opinion is correct or whether it is enough to show that he held that bonafide opinion.”

Bhushan is facing a contempt petition for describing as corrupt the presence of Justice S.H. Kapadia, before he became the chief justice, on the forest bench of the apext court that decided on the Niyamgiri Mining lease in Orissa in favour of Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite industries.

Bhushan in his interview to Tehelka magazine, carried in its September 5, 2009 issue, had alleged that Justice Kapadia had shares in Sterlite industries.

“There is a law against judges hearing cases where there is a conflict of interest, but they just bypass it and you can’t complain because that would be contempt,” he said.

Noting that amicus curiae (friend of the court) Harish Salve and senior counsel Rajiv Dhawan representing Tarun Tejpal, editor, Tehelka, were not present, the court adjourned the hearing till December 8.

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