The Hindu Journalist N Ram, former Union Minister Arun Shourie, and advocate Prashant Bhusan has moved Supreme Court challenging the ‘constitutional validity’ of criminal contempt on grounds of ‘scandalizing the court’ under Section 2(c)(i) of the Contempt of Court Act.
The petitioners stated that this sub-section violates Article 19 (i) of the constitution and considered it a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed by the constitution.
“The impugned sub-section is unconstitutional as it is incompatible with values (of the Preamble) and basic features of the Constitution” and, further, that it is “unconstitutionally and incurably vague, and manifestly arbitrary,” contended the petition.
The petition further states, “by criminalising criticism of the court in sweeping and absolute terms, the impugned sub-section raises a prior restraint on speech on matters of public and political importance.”
The next date of hearing has been scheduled to be August 4.
Last month, contempt proceedings had been filed against Prashan Bhusan and Twitter India in context to the two tweets undermining the dignity of apex court and Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde.
Supreme Court advocate Mehek Maheshwari had filed the contempt case and tweeted, “The Contempt Petition against Adv Prashant Bhushan is filed my me as he made very inhuman remarks against our CJI Bobde of which Hon’ble Supreme Court took suo moto Cognizance.” The petitioner has also called it a cheap publicity stunt and an attempt to spread hatred in the form of anti-India campaign. The case against Twitter was filed as it has not removed the tweets from its platform.
As many as 131 personalities including former judges, authors, former government servants, and journalists have opposed the top court’s action and want the proceedings to be dropped against Prashant Bhusan. They have released a collective statement that says, “We cannot countenance a situation where citizens live in fear of the Court’s arbitrary power to punish for contempt for words of criticism on the conduct of judges, in or out of court”.
There is already an ongoing 11-year old contempt case against Prashant Bhusan over his comments to a news publication on former CJI.