- Prashant Bhushan accused of contempt by centre, attorney general
- Had alleged that centre misled court on appointment of interim CBI chief
- Mr Bhushan has sought three weeks' time to file a reply
A notice has been issued by the Supreme Court to lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, after the centre and the Attorney General accused him of contempt for his tweets on the appointment of M Nageshwar Rao as the interim chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Mr Bhushan, who was in court, has sought three weeks' time to file a reply. The case will be heard again on March 7.
Mr Bhushan, Attorney General KK Venugopal told the court, had tweeted his accusations against the government when petitions against Mr Rao's appointment were pending in court.
Though Mr Venugopal - who has filed a separate petition on the issue - said he was not pressing for punishment and wants a decision on larger issues, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, "The Attorney General is magnanimous. But the Centre wants Bhushan punished as this is not the first instance he has done this."
"Contempt is a bramhastra, it should not be used ordinarily," the top court said, adding that "punishment to a lawyer should be the last resort".
Last month, the appointment of Mr Rao was challenged in court by the non-profit Common Cause. In a series of tweets on February 1, Mr Bhushan contended that the government's version of events -- that the decision to appoint Mr Rao was taken at a meeting on January 11 -- was different from what Mallikarjun Kharge said.
Mr Kharge is one of the three members of the panel that makes decision on the CBI appointments. The other two members are the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India.
"I have just confirmed personally from the Leader of Opposition Mr Kharge that no discussion or decision in HPC meet was taken re appt of Nageswara Rao as interim Director CBI.The govt appears to have misled the court and perhaps submitted fabricated minutes of the HPC meeting!" his tweet read.
In another tweet, Mr Bhushan said: "See the letter of LOP Kharge re the unilateral appointment of Nageswara Rao as interim Director CBI by govt, w/o going through HPC of PM, CJI & LOP. Yet govt produced minutes of meeting saying that HPC approved appt. Seems govt gave fabricated minutes to court! Contempt of Court!"
KK Venugopal said Mr Bhushan should have applied to get the minutes of the meeting instead. "The time has come to put guidelines on whether lawyers can write on a matter that's sub judice," said the Attorney General.
The court said it was not averse to media reporting on court proceedings, but lawyers involved in a case should desist commenting on matters that are sub judice.