Plain English Summary of Application filed by Prashant Bhushan under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971: 06 August 2020

 

On the 5th of August 2020, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the contempt proceedings initiated against Mr. Prashant Bhushan. On the 6th of August 2020, Mr. Bhushan filed an application to the Court under s.17(5) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. This application, filed on behalf of Mr. Bhushan by Advocate Kamini Jaiswal, asserts some factual points, making its arguments and prayers on the basis of these.

 

The first point that is asserted is the Court’s conversion of a petition filed by Mr. Mehak Maheshwari, regarding Mr. Bhushan’s ‘Harley Davidson’ tweet, into a suo moto petition. Mr. Bhushan argues that when he was served notice of this, he was not supplied a copy of the original petition filed by Mr. Maheshwari. This violates Rule 6(2) of Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of the Supreme Court 1975 read with Article 145 of the Indian Constitution. It is argued that the Court’s conversion of the petition into a suo moto petition provides him with an inviolable right to be supplied with the relevant accompanying annexures and affidavits. Reference is made here to a similar complaint in the case of Vijay Kurle, In re [2019] where the Court directed that the original complaint and all annexes be made available to the contemnor in that case. 

 

Next, it is emphasised that the Reply Affidavit filed to the court on the 2nd ofAugust was merely a preliminary one (as indicated on page 2 of the same). It is asserted that Mr. Bhushan’s ability to make a more adequate reply was weakened in the absence of relevant documents. As such, the application seeks to invoke Mr. Bhushan’s right under s.17(5) of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971, which allows any contemnor to provide ‘such further evidence as may be necessary’ as justice requires.

 

Finally, the Court’s suo moto cognisance of Mr. Bhushan’s tweet regarding the ‘destruction of democracy’ is dealt with. Here, the application asserts that Mr.Bhushan was not supplied with the tweet as it was published in the Times of India on 22 July. It is further argued that this suo moto cognizance should constitute a separate cause of action which should thus be initiated in separate proceedings. It is submitted that the ‘proper procedure’ for such proceedings was laid out in Vijay Kurle, In Re [2020], where it was held that while notice may be issued by any Judge, the matter must subsequently be placed before the CJI, who may then list it for hearing before an appropriate bench.

 

Based on these assertions and arguments, the application makes two prayers, or requests. First, it asks that if the Court found the preliminary reply filed by Mr. Bhushan on the basis of incomplete information supplied to him to be insufficient, and the matter was to be taken any further, that Mr. Bhushan be allowed to supply more evidence as per his rights under s.17(5) of the Contempt of Courts Act. Towards this, it asks that he be given a copy of the original complaint filed by Mr. Maheshwari. Second, it asks that the court separate the proceedings for the suo moto cognizance of the tweet regarding the ‘destruction of democracy’, which should then be placed before the CJI who may allocate it to a suitable bench, as per Vijay Kurle, In Re [2020].