NEW DELHI: Holding advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court, the Supreme Court on Friday said punishing a lawyer was an extreme measure, but nevertheless necessary to keep the streams of justice pure and undefiled.
“Judiciary is the central pillar of Indian democracy. It is the duty of the court to punish to preserve its dignity,” the order emphasised.
However, legal experts begged to differ, saying criticism doesn’t amount to contempt.
“The judgment in Prashant Bhushan case will discourage lawyers from being outspoken. A silenced bar cannot lead to a strong court,” said senior advocate Sanjay Hegde.
Advocate Apar Gupta tweeted, “Criticism of the Supreme Court even when unfair is not contempt. It is for the love of an institution that upholds an ideal of social justice and fundamental rights.”
Supreme Court Advocate on Record Anas Tanvir said, “The power of contempt is to be sparsely used. This has been a stated rule since forever. The absolute power that contempt is needs to be wielded with much care. It may seem that the Supreme Court became a little too sensitive about Prashant Bhushan’s comments. A similar sensitivity was not shown when Justice R Banumathi was abused on Twitter for mentioning her religion or when a functionary of the ruling party said that the top court is in their hands.”
Echoing similar views, advocate Krishna Sharma said, “The Supreme Court is a public institution and the judges are open to criticism. So these things should not become the subject matter of contempt.”Eminent persons from other fields also expressed disappointment in the judgment.
Historian Ramchandra Guha tweeted, “Through this act, the Supreme Court has let itself down, and has let the Republic down too. A dark day for Indian democracy.”
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury tweeted, “The judgment will prevent open and free discussion on the role of the SC in India’s democracy.”