SC notice to Bhushan over comments on CBI interim chief

SC notice to Bhushan over comments on CBI interim chief

SC decides to examine if lawyers go public on sub judice matters

The Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to examine a larger issue if a counsel appearing in a pending matter should go public and make statements which may prejudice public opinion and affect administration of justice.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha issued notice to advocate Prashant Bhushan on separate contempt petitions filed by Attorney General K K Venugopal and the Union Government for his tweets of February 1.

Bhushan had then accused Venugopal of furnishing a "fabricated" document on minutes of the high-powered selection panel with regard to appointment of M Nageshwara Rao as interim CBI director.

"A law has to be declared as to where the line has to be drawn. Freedom carries a responsibility. Judiciary should be protected. If the Bar is out to kill the judiciary, what can be done," the bench asked, adding though the media has a right to report and the people have a right to know but a time has come to settle the issue.

"When a matter is sub-judice, what is expected of lawyers? Should they go public and be part of media and TV debate," the court further asked as it decided to examine the larger issues raised by Attorney General.

Venugopal said there must be an end to it. He, however, added he did not want any punishment against Bhushan.

In contrast, Union government led by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said it would demand deterrent punishment against Bhushan.

"Everyday, we see just after a judgement is pronounced, it is publicly proclaimed that it is a black day, bringing disrepute to the institution" he said.

Bhushan, who was present in the court, sought three weeks time to file his reply. He said at the moment he did not want to say anything.

The court put the matter for further consideration on March 7.

In his petition, Venugopal said Bhushan had attempted to scandalise the top court and obstructed in administration of justice by his tweets.

The government contended by his tweets on appointment of M Nageshwara Rao as interim CBI director, Bhushan had "willfully and deliberately" made a false statement in a case pending in court.

Venugopal said Bhushan by his tweets had not only denigrated his office but that of a sitting judge, Justice A K Sikri, who was part of the selection panel and signed the minutes, which was termed as "fabricated". The court said it would pass a detailed order on PIL filed by NGO Common Cause and RTI activist Anjali Bharadwaj, challenging appointment of Rao as interim CBI director.