SC says further hearing needed in contempt case against Bhushan, Tejpal

The top court had in November 2009 issued contempt notice to Bhushan and Tejpal for allegedly casting aspersions on some sitting and former top court judges in an interview to a news magazine | Illustration: Binay Sinha
The Supreme Court on Monday said further hearing was required in the 2009 criminal contempt case against activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan and journalist Tarun Tejpal to examine whether comments on "corruption" against judges per se amounted to contempt or not.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra on August 4 had made clear to Bhushan and Tejpal that it would hear the case against them, if it does not accept their explanation" or "apology in the matter.

The bench, also comprising justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, which posted the matter for hearing on August 17, said before reaching to any finding whether the statement made as to 'Corruption' would per se amount to Contempt of Court, the matter is required to be heard."

The top court had in November 2009 issued contempt notice to Bhushan and Tejpal for allegedly casting aspersions on some sitting and former top court judges in an interview to a news magazine. Tejpal was then editor of the magazine.

The apex court had on August 4 had also said that the court has not received the explanation/apology submitted by Bhushan and Tejpal so far and would pronounce its order on whether to accept them or not.

Explanation/apology submitted by Prashant Bhushan/Respondent No.1 and Tarun Tejpal/Respondent No.2, have not been received so far. In case we do not accept the explanation/apology, we will hear the matter. We reserve the order, the bench had said in its last week order.

During the brief hearing conducted last week through video-conferencing and mostly through whatsapp video call, the bench had said it does not want to curtail the freedom of speech and expression but for the contempt there is a thin line.

Bhushan's office had later in the day said that the statement was made by him to the apex court on August 4.

The statement said that advocate Prashant Bhushan refused to tender an apology but agreed to issue the statement.

In my interview to Tehelka in 2009 I have used the word corruption in a wide sense meaning lack of propriety. I did not mean only financial corruption or deriving any pecuniary advantage. If what I have said caused hurt to any of them or to their families in any way, I regret the same.

I unreservedly state that I support the institution of the judiciary and especially the Supreme Court of which I am a part, and had no intention to lower the prestige of the judiciary in which I have complete faith. I regret if my interview was misunderstood as doing so, that is, lower the reputation of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, which could never have been my intention at all, the statement of Bhushan sent by his office to media had said.

It added that Tejpal's statement made to the court apparently contained a conditional apology for the offense it had caused the institution of the Supreme Court, as mentioned by senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Tejpal during the hearing.

On July 22, the top court had issued notice to Bhushan in a separate suo motu contempt proceedings initiated against him for his alleged derogatory tweets against the judiciary, saying his statements prima facie "brought the administration of justice in disrepute".

The apex court had on August 5 reserved its verdict on the suo motu contempt case against Bhushan.

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