Advocate Prashant Bhushan has filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against its decision to fine him a nominal Re. 1 as punishment for committing criminal contempt by ‘scandalising the court’ with his tweet on a picture of the Chief Justice of India on a heavy bike and another about the role of the court in the past six years.
Mr. Bhushan urged the court to recall the punishment. He said the tweets were criticism. He argued that dissent and criticism of an institution did not amount to criminal contempt.
The senior lawyer asked the court to look into whether its power to initiate suo motu contempt was subject to the fundamental rights of a person. Dissent and free, fearless exchange of ideas were the central pillars of democracy.
The petition said it was a manifest error on the part of the judgment on August 30 to conclude that criticism of individual judges amounted to a malicious attack on the court itself.
Bar Council notice
Separately responding to a notice from the Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) on why he should not be disbarred, Mr. Bhushan urged the lawyers’ body to stand up for truth and freedom of speech, to stand in solidarity.
“The Supreme Court judgments holding me guilty and sentencing me for criminal contempt are a fundamental assault on the freedom of speech and independence of the Bar”, he wrote back.
The legal profession’s independence had been protected by the statutory Bar Councils established under the Advocates Act, 1961.
“The Bar Councils have been made completely independent of the Government as well as the judiciary, so that they can protect the dignity, freedom and independence of the Bar”, he said.
The Bar Councils should not take cognisance of the Supreme Court verdict, which has “severely constricted and abridged the freedom, rights and dignity of the members of the Bar and also ordinary citizens. Freedom of speech and expression of lawyers is critical so that the members of the legal profession remain independent and can voice their opinion about the functioning of the courts without any fear”.