The Supreme Court today sought Attorney General KK Venugopal's help in an 11-year-old contempt case against lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan. The top court asked the Attorney General to assist the court in deciding the larger issues in the 2009 contempt case against Mr Bhushan.
A three-judge bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Sanjiv Khanna heard the case today through video conferencing. KK Venugopal's assistance has been sought to decide the larger issues -- if allegations against judges (both sitting and retired) can be put in public domain and the procedure to deal with it.
The contempt case involves statements that Prashant Bhushan made during an interview to Tehelka magazine in 2009 when he said half the 16 Chief Justices of India were corrupt.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, representing Mr Bhushan, today said: "We want the Attorney General to assist this court in dealing with the questions given by us and the court had also framed some questions." He added that they had given some questions for consideration in the matter.
The bench directed that entire records of the matter be served to the office of the Attorney General. The top court will hear the matter again in the second week of October.
A bench led by Justice Arun Mishra, who has now retired, had earlier placed the case before Chief Justice SA Bobde for constituting an appropriate bench for looking into issues on whether one can go public with allegations of corruption against a judge before any probe by internal committee of judges.
"I am short of time because I'm demitting office. This (case) requires detailed hearing of four to five hours. It's not a question of punishment only... it's a question of faith in the institution. I am not saying anything about this case specifically. When people come to the court for relief when that faith is shaken that's a problem," Justice Arun Mishra had said.
This is the second contempt case being heard in the top court against the 63-year-old lawyer. Mr Bhushan was fined Re 1 last month after being held guilty of contempt of court for his tweets in another case.
"My tweets were not intended in any way to disrespect the Supreme Court or the judiciary as a whole, but were merely meant to express my anguish, at what I felt, was a deviation from its sterling past record," he said soon after the court announced its judgement, adding that "I will respectfully pay the fine".
"What is very heartening is that this case has become a watershed moment for freedom of speech and seems to have encouraged many people to stand up and speak out against the injustices in our society," Mr Bhushan had said.