Ten social activists have come out in support of Senior Lawyer Prashant Bhushan in the Supreme Court, contending that the contempt proceedings initiated against him appear to be an assault on freedom of speech and expression.
Group of Activists have filed an application to intervene in the contempt plea filed by Attorney General KK Venugopal against Bhushan for his tweets in which he had said that the government appeared to have misled the top court and perhaps submitted fabricated minutes of meeting of the high-powered selection committee headed by the prime minister, in the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as interim CBI director.
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The Top Court had on February 6 slammed senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan for his tweets on the Sub-Judice Matter.
The activists – including Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy and Shailesh Gandhi, have said in their petition that they were “concerned” about initiation of the contempt proceeding against Bhushan for exercising his ‘freedom of speech’ without fear.
Apart from this, a separate application has also been filed in the top court by five senior journalists, including former union minister Arun Shourie, seeking to intervene in the case.
Shourie who along with Four Others filed application have said in their application that the court, while issuing the notice to Bhushan on February 6 on the contempt plea, had said it would examine whether in sub-judice matters, advocates and litigants briefing the media would amount to an interference in course of administration of justice.
The Supreme Court had on Feb 6 issued a notice to Senior Lawyer Prashant Bhushan after Attorney General KK Venugopal representing the Centre accused him of contempt for his tweets on the appointment of Nageshwar Rao as the interim chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation. Prashant Bhushan has sought three weeks’ time to file a reply. The case is slated to be heard again on March 7.
The 10 social activists in its application stated that “It appears that the initiation of present contempt proceedings is an assault on the freedom of speech and expression of the citizen of this country and an attempt to stifle this right by using the power of contempt”
The 10 Activists apart from Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy and Shailesh Gandhi, the other applicants who have sought to intervene in the matter are Wajahat Habibullah, Harsh Mander, Jayati Ghosh, Prabhat Patnaik, Indu Prakash Singh, Bezwada Wilson and Nikhil Dey.
They have said Bhushan’s tweets “merely pointed to the discrepancy” between a publicly available letter of a member of the high powered committee and the claim of government and the tweets “in no way made any disparaging remarks against the AG (Attorney General) or his conduct”.
The petition further said that barring media or anybody through the media from writing or commenting about pending court proceedings would have the effect of depriving the people of information which they are entitled to know.
Referring to several orders passed by the top court earlier, the application said that a consistent view has been taken and media or any other commentators cannot be barred from commenting or reporting on pending court proceedings involving matters of public interest.