In a 2009 case involving comments by lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan on judges, the Supreme Court today requested Chief Justice SA Bobde to place it before an “appropriate bench”. The court has raised several questions to be examined in the case, including whether one can go public with allegations of corruption against judges.
“I am short of time. I am demitting office. This requires detailed hearing of four to five hours”, Justice Arun Mishra observed.
The court listed the case before another bench on September 10.
During arguments, the Supreme Court said: “It’s not a question of punishment, it’s a question of faith in the institution. When people come to the court for relief when that faith is shaken that’s a problem.” The judges were referring to the question of charges of corruption being made public.
Prashant Bhushan’s lawyer Rajeev Dhavan argued that any question in reference to corruption by judges and whether alleging it amounts to contempt should be examined by a constitution bench.
Last week, the Supreme Court had said it will examine larger questions including under what circumstances allegations of judicial corruption can be made. It also talked about examining what procedure must be adopted in contempt cases if allegations of corruption are raised against sitting and retired judges.
The contempt case involves statements that Prashant Bhushan made during an interview to Tehelka magazine in 2009, in which he said half the 16 Chief Justices of India were corrupt.
Justice Arun Mishra had said in the previous hearing: “We wanted to finish this. We wanted to end the case, but the basic question is – 1) if you want to speak to the media; 2) in case you have any grievance against any judge, what should be the process; 3) In what circumstances can such allegations be made is also a question.”
Both Rajeev Dhavan and Tehelka founder Tarun Tejpal’s lawyer wanted these questions to be examined by a constitution bench.
Rajeev Dhavan also argued that the use of the word corruption does not amount to contempt of court.