SC reserves order on contempt notice to lawyer

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 20:24

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved
its order on the maintainablity of a notice issued for taking
suo motu contempt action against noted advocate Prashant
Bhushan for allegedly casting aspersions on Justice S H
Kapadia, who is the Chief Justice-in-waiting, and previous
Chief Justices of India.

A three-judge Bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir said
it will pronounce the order on July 14 after Bhushan
questioned the maintainability of the notice as well as the
contempt petition against him for his alleged remarks in a
news magazine.

Bhushan had in an interview to `Tehelka` made the remarks
against Justice Kapadia as well as some other judges and
previous CJIs.

He had alleged Justice Kapadia, being a member of the
Forest Bench along with Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, should
not have heard the matter relating to Vedanta Sterlite Group
as he held shares of the company.
Justice Kapadia later recused himself from hearing a
matter pertaining to the public offer made by London-based
Vedanta Resources to buy additional stake in ironore exporting
firm Sesa Goa as he happens to be shareholder of a sister
company.

The court had also issued a notice to Editor-in-Chief of
Tehelka Tarun Tejpal.

Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for Bhushan,
said the bench should not proceed with the contempt proceeding
as there is a serious risk that it will gain a ground that it
is being issued for suppressing the uncomfortable facts about
the judiciary.

"I wish this matter does not reach final conclusion,"
Jethmalani said at the begining of the hearing before the
Bench also comprising Justices Cyriac Joseph and H L Dattu.

"If the matter is heard, the outcome can bring much much
more tragedy," he said adding the petition filed by Salve in
his capacity as amicus curaie is not maintenable and should be
dismissed.

The senior advocate submitted that the power of the court
to take suo motu contempt action has to used sparingly in the
rarest of rare case.

Arguing on identical line, senior advocate Shanti
Bhushan, said that what was said by Prashant Bhushan in the
interview was an understatement and the contempt power of the
court should not be used to stifle the criticism of judiciary
or to protect its reputation.

While questioning the maintenablity of the petition on
technical grounds, Jethmalani contended the court should not
have issued notice by taking the decision on its judicial
side based on a private complaint.

"The complainant should have placed all the material
before the court for its decision to proceed in the matter in
its administrative side rather than filing a petition on its
own," he contended.
Bhushan submitted the private person can`t file a
petition for initiating the suo motu contempt action as it was
contrary to the law settled by the apex court in its various
rulings.

Salve countered the arguments of the two senior advocates
saying technical grounds taken by them for opposing the notice
were not valid.

"In my view your lordship can do so," he said.

Earlier, when the matter was taken up on January 19,
Jethmalani had said there was a danger in proceeding with
contempt proceedings.

"Upholding the dignity of the court should be the
first priority of the court. This proceeding will damage the
dignity of the court and institution rather than restoring
it," he had told the Bench.

When the matter was brought to the knowledge of the
apex court on October 9 last, the special forest Bench,
comprising the CJI and Justices Kapadia and Aftab Alam, had
allowed Salve to file a contempt petition against Bhushan.

Salve had on October 9 said the allegations of
corruption against judges of the apex court was clearly an
attempt to undermine the public confidence in the court as an
institution and accused Bhushan of indulging in half truths.

"The statement alleging corruption in respect of past
chief justices smacks of irresponsible maligning of the
institution...creating a doubt of who all would be the
`guilty`...thereby tarnishing the institution itself," the
petition said.
"Ascribing corruption to an act which was undertaken
with the consent of the advocates appearing in the matter is a
deliberate attack on the judiciary only with a view to
undermining public confidence in the institution," it said.

Justice Kapadia had taken strong exception to the remarks
made against him.

When the matter was taken on March 25, Prashant Bhushan
had said he did not intend to cast any aspersion on Justice
Kapadia.

Jethmalani had submitted that Prashant Bhushan did not
mean any disrespect when he made the statement to a news
magazine that Justice Kapadia should not have heard the case
of Vedanta Sterlite Group as the judge had held shares of the
company.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 20:24

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