Twenty-one politicians from various parties have issued a signed letter in support of lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan after the Supreme Court declared him guilty of contempt of court. The signatories, including Digvijaya Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Shashi Tharoor and Farooq Abdullah, have urged the apex court to avoid the impression that ‘’we are entering an era of silence about our institutions by punishing someone who has acted as the conscience keeper of the highest court of the country”.
In a two-page release, the signatories said, “We express our dismay about the judgement of the Supreme Court of India declaring legal luminary Pashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court on the basis of a complaint about two tweets about decline of democratic institutions and growing problems in the delivery of justice in recent times. While expressing unqualified commitment for upholding the dignity of all out Constitutional bodies including the Supreme Court of India, we are afraid that this decision may have a chilling effect on free speech and expression of dissent.’’
They said Bhushan is a conscientious lawyer of three decades who has always upheld constitutional and democratic norms. His critical comments in the tweets should have been seen in this light.
‘’It is sad that the honourable Court has not found it is necessary to distinguish between constructive criticism and malicious statements. We fail to find a legitimate basis for such a sweeping approach as it would deter ordinary individuals from performing their citizenship duty of being objective in their expressions about the institutions of our democratic republic,” the signatories said.
They observed, “It is our conviction that the cause of free speech needs to be protected and promoted as our young democracy needs plurality of perspectives and vigilance about all institutions to become more meaningful for all the men and women of India and we may move forward towards a just and fearless society on the basis of enlightened citizenship.”