SC reserves order on contempt notice to lawyer
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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.


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

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