New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday decided to seek assistance of Attorney General KK Venugopal in a 2009 contempt case against activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan and then Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal.
The contempt notices were slapped on them suo motu by the Court in November 2009 on them for allegedly casting aspersions on the past Chief Justices of India.
The matter came up for hearing through video-conferencing before a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna. A Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, who has since retired, last month urged the Chief Justice of India to refer the case to another Bench since it required detailed hearing that was not possible in the short time left before his retirement.
It's not the matter of Prashant Bhushan but some important questions to be considered in the matter and so "we want the Attorney General to assist this court in dealing with the questions framed by the previous bench and also questions given by us," said senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Bhushan.
Accepting the request, the Court directed that the entire records in the matter be sent to the office of the Attorney General and listed the matter for further hearing on October 12.
It was the intervention of the Attorney General to plead for leniency in another suo motu contempt case against Prashant Bhushan on his two tweets in June that led to the Bench headed by Justice Mishra let him off with a "nominal fine" of Re 1, while stressing that he had attempted to "denigrate the reputation of the institution of administration of justice."
Referring the 2009 contempt case to another bench on August 25, the Bench had said that it should deal with certain larger questions related to freedom of speech and levelling of corruption charges against the judiciary.
In that hearing before the Bench headed by retired judge Justice Mishra, Dhavan had pressed for better sending the matter to the Constitutional Bench since he has submitted 10 questions of constitutional importance that should be settled. Dhavan had sought the assistance of the Attorney General even in that hearing, but the Bench left it for the new Bench to handle the matter.
On August 17, the then bench of Justice Mishra had framed certain questions and asked the parties to address it on three issues-- whether such statements about corruption against judges or judiciary 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.
Ten questions Dhavan sought to be answered included whether a bona fide opinion on the extent of corruption in any section of the judiciary amounts to contempt of court and whether the person who expresses such an opinion is obliged to prove that it is correct or whether it is enough to show that he bona fide held that opinion.