Notice to Prashant Bhushan on contempt plea

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Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan. (File Photo: IANS)

New Delhi, Feb 6: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to advocate Prashant Bhushan on a contempt plea filed by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and the Centre saying that Bhushan tweeted that the government “fabricated” minutes of a selection panel meeting on the appointment of then acting CBI Director M. Nageswara Rao.

A bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Navin Sinha said they will be addressing the issue of “vital importance” involving commenting on a sub-judice matter affecting public opinion and the rights of the litigants. 

The next hearing is due on March 7.

Making it clear that “punishment to a lawyer should be the last resort”, Justice Mishra said: “Contempt is a ‘Brhamastra’, it should not be used ordinarily.”

While Venugopal, at the outset, made it clear that he was not seeking any punishment for Bhushan, but wanted a line to be drawn and a law be declared spelling out the limits on media reporting and lawyers commenting on sub-judice matters.

However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, sought to discipline the errant lawyers who go public criticizing judgements and casting aspersions on judges.

Mehta said the “magnanimity” of the court on not taking action against such people should not be treated as a “weakness”.

Observing that “public has a right to know what transpired in the court”, Justice Sinha said, “Can we say that bar should be drawn there?”

He regretted that “people in Bar don’t follow the ‘unwritten rules’ of the nobility of profession.”

“We are now being protected by those whom we should keep aloof of. All are out to protect the judiciary. It has to be protected from within”, Justice Mishra said, pointing out that the “time has come when all these issues should be authoritatively settled. There are larger issues involved in it.” he said.