SC order against Bhushan will discourage lawyers from being outspoken: 40 prominent advocates to SC

More than 40 prominent lawyers from across the Bar have expressed ‘dismay’ at the Supreme Court’s decision holding Advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt, Live Law reported.

An independent judiciary does not mean that judges are immune from scrutiny and comment, reads a statement signed by Advocates Navroz H Seervai, Vrinda Grover, Kamini Jaiswal, Shyam Divan, Sanjay R Hegde, Menaka Guruswamy, Karuna Nundy, among others.

“The SC judgment in Bhushan’s case will not restore the authority of the court in the eyes of the public but rather, it will discourage the lawyers from being outspoken,” they said.

Bhushan has been held guilty of contempt for his two tweets on Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court will decide on the sentence on August 20. A three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari delivered the verdict.

The statement states that Bhushan’s tweets that led to the conviction order dated August 14 do not say anything out of the ordinary, other than what is routinely expressed about the court’s working in recent years by many people, including retired judges of the Supreme Court, on public fora and on social media.

The senior lawyers asserted that the contempt order must not be given effect to, until a larger bench, sitting in open court after the pandemic has the opportunity to review the standards of criminal contempt.

“It is the duty of lawyers to freely bring any shortcomings to the notice of bar, bench and the public at large. While some of us may have divergent views on the advisability and content of Mr. Prashant Bhushan’s two tweets, we are unanimously of the view that no contempt of court was intended or committed especially when contrasted with the normal standard that ‘Justice is not a cloistered virtue… She must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken comments of ordinary men.”” the lawyers wrote to the country’s top court.

The lawyers also said that from the days of the supersession of judges and the events thereafter, it has been the Bar that has been the first to stand in defence of the independence of the judiciary.

“A bar silenced under the threat of contempt, will undermine the independence and ultimately the strength of the Court. A silenced bar, cannot lead to a strong court,” they further stressed.