The Supreme Court on Friday found advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court for tweets he had posted over the last few weeks. “When historians in future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction, & more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs,” Bhushan had said in one of the tweets against which the court had taken suo moto cognisance.

Bhushan’s other tweet had a picture of Chief Justice trying out a high-end motorcycle in Nagpur, contrasting it with a claim that poor people were not getting access to justice due to the court being locked down amid the pandemic. The judgement countered this tweet by saying that Bhushan himself had appeared in court as both a petitioner and litigator during this period, and an FIR against him in May was stayed too.

“Demoralize[s] the Judges”

“No doubt, that it may be better in many cases for the judiciary to adopt a magnanimously charitable attitude even when utterly uncharitable and unfair criticism of its operations is made out of bona fide concern for improvement,” the Justice Arun Mishra-led bench said in its judgement.

“However, when there appears some scheme and design to bring about results which have the tendency of damaging the confidence in our judicial system and demoralize the Judges of the highest court by making malicious attacks, those interested in maintaining high standards of fearless, impartial and unbending justice will have to stand firmly. If such an attack is not dealt with, with requisite degree of firmness, it may affect the national honour and prestige in the comity of nations,” the judges said in their 108-page order. Bhushan, who was represented by advocate Dushyant Dave, had argued that his statements did not amount to contempt of court, and said that his tweets were fair criticism that would not hamper the court’s functioning.

Bhushan’s sentence has not yet been determined. The court accepted Twitter’s argument that it was just an intermediary under the Information Technology Act, 2000, and discharged the company from the case after it restricted Bhushan’s tweets in India.