The Supreme Court on Monday said it will go ahead with the contempt of court proceedings against senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan in the 2009 case over his interview to Tehelka magazine alleging that half of past 16 chief justices of India were corrupt.
Refusing to accept the ‘regret’ offered by Bhushan in a written statement to the top court, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra posted the matter for hearing on August 17.
“Whether calling judges corrupt per se amounts to contempt needs to be heard,” the bench said.
On August 4, the Supreme Court had held an in-camera proceeding in the case and reserved it’s order. A statement was given by Bhushan as well as Tarun Tejpal, the former editor of Tehelka magazine.
The bench said that there is a thin line between free speech and contempt. The judges said they seek to balance the right to free speech on one hand and the need to protect the dignity of the judiciary as an institution.
Bhushan said that his allegation on corruption did not refer to financial corruption but lack of propriety and if his statement hurt judges or their families he regrets his statement.
Tejpal had offered an apology.
The top court had issued contempt notice to Bhushan and Tejpal in November 2009 for allegedly casting aspersions on some sitting and former top court judges in an interview to Tehelka.
On July 22, the same bench had issued suo motu notice to Bhushan for his remarks and two alleged derogatory tweets against the judiciary, observing his statements prima facie “brought the administration of justice in disrepute”.
In his reply to the court’s notice, Bhushan said the expression of opinion, “however outspoken, disagreeable or unpalatable to some”, cannot constitute contempt of court.