New Delhi, Aug 7 (IANS) Trouble for prominent lawyer Prashant Bhushan seems to be far from over. After 131 “prominent personalities” urged the Supreme Court to withdraw its contempt notice against Bhushan, a group of 174 eminent citizens have countered it, including 2 former High Court Chief Justices, in a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind.
In a no holds barred attack on the first letter in support of Bhushan, the 174 people including former Rajasthan Chief Justice Anil Deo Singh, former Foreign Secretary Amar Sinha and former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami termed the ones vouching for Bhushan, as an “odd group of persons”.
Bhushan is being tried for contempt in the Supreme Court.
“It is a matter of concern that one odd group of persons, claiming themselves to be distinguished public men of the past, has been observed to repeatedly avail of every opportunity to put Indian democracy and its sacred institutions like Parliament, Election Commission of India, and now the Supreme Court of India, in poor light before the whole world. They end up issuing ill-considered statements, and writing misconceived communications to various authorities to attract media attention,” wrote the anti-Bhushan group, in a damning counter.
This was a reference to the previous group of 131 citizens which included former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan Lokur and Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav, expressing solidarity with Prashant Bhushan. Their statement, arguing for Bhushan read, “The initiation of contempt proceedings against Mr Bhushan, who had articulated some of these concerns in his tweets, appears to be an attempt at stifling such criticism, not just by Mr Bhushan, but by all stakeholders in the Indian democratic and constitutional set-up.”
But on Friday, in their letter to the President, the 174 others retorted, saying, “Freedom of speech is another foundation of democracy, but the freedom to speak can certainly not be misconstrued as a freedom to make a hate speech, subversive speech with the intent to shred national integrity, a diatribe undermining national sovereignty, or carrying out tirades to demolish the sacred institutions of Indian democracy.”
The counter group argued that the contempt case is “exclusively” between Prashant Bhushan and the apex court. But the group consisting of the likes of Yogendra Yadav, has “interfered with the administration of justice,” they said.
They even raked up Bhushan’s previous call for a “referendum” in Kashmir, blaming it on “gaping loopholes in the system”. Calling it “interference in the garb of politically motivated activism”, the 174 signatories say they reject the pro-Bhushan group’s “unprincipled posturing”.
“We concerned citizens, hereby disapprove of this group in its acts of routinely producing a negative public narrative replete with disrespect to Indian democratic institutions,” wrote the group of 174.
This elaborate list consists of 2 former High Court Chief Justices, 15 former High Court judges, 4 former Chief Secretaries, a former CEC, a former DG of the CISF and 12 former DGPs. It also consists of 4 former ambassadors and former Chief Commissioners of Income Tax, each. Shakti Sinha, who has been the Director of Nehru Memorial, also signed on this strongly worded petition to the President.
The Supreme Court issued a contempt notice to Prashant Bhushan earlier on July 22, for a couple of his tweets in which Bhushan had written about the “role of the Supreme Court” in the alleged “destruction” of democracy during the last 6 years.