Advocate Prashant Bhushan approached the Supreme Court on Saturday praying that an additional legal remedy should be provided in those cases where people are convicted by the Supreme Court in original criminal contempt cases.
Original criminal contempt cases are those which are heard directly by the Supreme Court in the first instance. In such cases, if a person is convicted, he or she is left with no further remedy as the Supreme Court is the highest court in the country.
Bhushan has prayed that in such a case, the convicted person should be afforded the right to an intra-court appeal, i.e. a larger bench of the Supreme Court, different from the bench which convicted the concerned person, should hear an appeal against such conviction.
“The right to appeal against conviction in original criminal cases is a substantive right under Article 21 and flows from principles of natural justice. The absence of such a right thus violates (right to life under) Article 21,” the plea stated.
Moreover, contempt proceedings are one wherein the injured party is the Supreme Court itself and it acts as the prosecutor, the witness and the judge, thereby raising fear of inherent bias. Thus, there is a need for intra-court appeal, the petition said.
If an intra-court appeal cannot be allowed, then as an alternative, review petitions filed against orders of conviction by Supreme Court in original criminal contempt cases would be heard in open court by a different bench, Bhushan prayed.
The Supreme Court had recently held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his tweets criticising the Supreme Court and Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde. The court had on August 31 imposed a token fine of Rs 1 as punishment for the same.
Another contempt case, initiated by the top court in 2009 for his remarks that past Chief Justices of India were corrupt, is also pending before the apex court.