Order has been reserved in a contempt case against lawyer activist Prashant Bhushan, which was heard by the Supreme Court today. Mr Bhushan has been accused of contempt by through the statements he made during an interview to Tehelka magazine. In the interview published in 2009, Mr Bhushan had said half of the 16 Chief Justices of India were corrupt.
The top court, which is also hearing another contempt petition against the activist for his comments against the judges of the top court, said, "There is a line between free speech and contempt... There is freedom of speech and expression and then contempt".
In a statement, Mr Bhushan expressed regret: "What I said caused hurt to any of the them ( CJIs) or to their families in any way, I regret." The word corruption, he said, was used in "wide sense meaning lack pf propriety". "I did not mean only financial corruption or deriving any pecuniary advantage," he said.
In a surprise move, Justice Arun Mishra, who led the three-judge bench, had asked his staff to call Prashant Bhushan's lawyer Rajeev Dhavan on phone midway through the hearing.
"How do we save the grace of this system? I want to know from you so that we can avoid this conflict," Justice Mishra asked Mr Dhavan.
One way is to accept the explanation given by Bhushan through Senior Advocate Ram Jethmalani who represented him, responded Mr Dhavan, who had received a phone call from the judge for his inputs in the middle of the hearing.
After a short break following the call, Mishra talked again to Mr Dhavan, senior advocate Kapil Sibal representing Tehelka and Amicus Curiae Harish Salve.
The other person accused of contempt, senior journalist Tarun Tejpal, apologised for publishing a contemptuous statement.
Finally, the three-judge bench of Justices Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari reserved the verdict
Tomorrow the Supreme Court will take up another contempt case relating to two tweets by Mr Bhushan. One was against the judiciary, theb other pertained to an image of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde sitting on a superbike, that made headlines recently.