(This is a reprint from NewsBred)
Civil Riots... err... Rights Lawyer Prashant Bhushan literally gets away with murder. But this time he might have pushed his luck too far.
Even as Advocate General K.K. Venugopal was willing to withdraw his contempt and punishment petition against the mischief-making lawyer, the bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha said on Thursday: "You (Venugopal) may or may not withdraw the petition but you have raised a question and we will decide it." This shows intent on the part of Supreme Court to come down hard on Bhushan.
Prashant Bhushan waded further into the muddle when he wanted Justice Arun Mishra to recuse himself from hearing the petition. Bhushan's counsel Dushyant Dave initially insisted that there was apprehension in his client Bhushan's mind that Justice Mishra might be "subconsciously biased" against him. Dave later offered unconditional apology but Bhushan didn't.
Venugopal's contempt petition was on a Bhushan tweet, claiming that "he confirmed personally from Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge" that the January 10 meeting of the panel, also comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and CJI's nominee Justice AK Sikri, had neither discussed nor decided on the appointment of M. Nageswara Rao as interim CBI director. (Typically English mainstream media, barring Times of India, has hid the offensive tweet-in-question from its readers; remember, these are the same newspapers that were drumming drones on our sight and mind, giving screaming headlines on CBI matter.)
Meanwhile, SC would hear a contempt notice against Bhushan after Holi break (March 18-23). Court is annoyed that litigants and advocates air their views on media/social media instead of returning to court. "This is troubling all of us as an institution. This is happening in all cases of importance. Motives are attributed to judges," observed Judge Arun Mishra. (Typically, N. Ram, Arun Shourie, Arundhanti Roy, Aruna Roy and former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah have filed intervention application against a possible gag order.)
Almost a year ago, Bhushan had just about escaped any punishment though the lashing of a verbal kind had been delivered by Justice DY Chandrachud on a clutch of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) seeking probe into the death of a special CBI court judge BH Loya in 2014.
Dismissing the PILs, the SC had slammed Prashant Bhushan and his NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), "to mislead the court by manufacturing evidence." Justice Chandrachud said in his judgment: "Prashant Bhushan adopted a dual mantle and went to the length of personally collecting evidence to bolster the case."
Among many sharp observations, the apex court had said: "The petition is a veiled attempt to launch a frontal attack on the independence of the judiciary and to dilute the credibility of judicial institutions." Such PILs, observed the court, "are found to promote a personal, business or political agenda.
"This has the propensity of endangering the credibility of other institutions and undermining public faith in democracy and the rule of law," added the court.
On Thursday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said "the recent application was part of a pattern." He recalled how the SC had severely criticized Mr Bhushan for asking justices DY Chandrachud and AM Khanwilkar to recuse from the Loya death case because they hailed from the Bombay High Court (same Bhushan has now done with Justice Arun Mishra).
What is this pattern and why it has put the institution of judiciary in this country under risk?
Connecting the dots, it emerges the pattern is to first spread lies, then go the court with a petition, discredit the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, PM Narendra Modi in particular, and swirl a malicious campaign in the newspapers. That most such fake petitions fall flat on its face, doesn't seem to embarrass or shame this lobby.
Off hand, I could recall two similar mischiefs. In 2017, Prashant Bhushan had pleaded in Supreme Court about an alleged pay-off by Birla-Sahara Group to Modi when the latter was Gujarat chief minister. The apex court dismissed Bhushan's plea seeking a CBI probe into the matter. Last year, Bhushan had tweeted: "Scamster (Mehul) Choksi became Antiguan citizen... after Modi met Antiguan president in April." OpIndia later pointed out that Choksi had become an Antiguan citizen a good six month ago!!!
Then there was the medical-college case in which the then-Chief Justice of India, Dipak Mishra, had observed: "Mr Bhushan you are now liable for contempt. But you are not worthy even of contempt." (It's another matter that the likes of Shourie, Yashwant Sinha and Arundhati Roy proudly put themselves in frame with Bhushan.)