Supreme Court Not Eager to Hear Judicial Corruption Case

The President, Ram Nath Kovind, administering the oath of office to Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, as the Chief Justice of India, at a swearing-in ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on November 18, 2019. Photo: PIB (file photo)
The President, Ram Nath Kovind, administering the oath of office to Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, as the Chief Justice of India, at a swearing-in ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on November 18, 2019. Photo: PIB (file photo)

The Supreme Court did not show any eagerness to discuss the matter of corruption by judges who have been blamed by Prashant Bhushan.

By Rakesh Raman

The hearing of the contempt-of-court case in which lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan has been accused of making comments about corruption in the Indian judiciary has been deferred again to October.

In the hearing today (September 10), the Supreme Court of India sought Attorney General K. K. Venugopal’s opinion in the 11-year-old contempt case against Bhushan. The top court asked the Attorney General to assist the court in deciding the larger issues if allegations against judges (both serving and retired) can be put in public domain and the procedure to deal with it.

A three-judge bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, and Justice Sanjiv Khanna heard the case through video conferencing. The court will hear the matter again in the second week of October.

Surprisingly, however, the court did not show any eagerness to discuss the matter of corruption by judges who have been blamed by Bhushan. Ideally, the court should have asked Bhushan to prove the allegations that he has put on the judges.

Earlier, on August 25, Justice Arun Mishra – who was handling this case about judicial corruption – had said that since he will soon demit office, he will not be able to take up the case. Therefore, the Supreme Court had urged Chief Justice SA Bobde to place it before an “appropriate bench” for hearing on September 10.

This contempt case involves statements that Prashant Bhushan had made during an interview to a magazine in 2009. Bhushan had said in the interview that half of the 16 Chief Justices of India were corrupt.

While the court thinks it is a contempt of court, Bhushan counters by saying that he has substantiated his comments by filing affidavits that detail corruption of the judges. He also prefers the Supreme Court to discuss this case thoroughly so that truth about corruption in judiciary could come out.

Prashant Bhushan’s lawyer Rajeev Dhawan had argued that the case of corruption by judges – whether or not it amounts to contempt – should be handled by a constitution bench. He suggested that the use of the word “corruption” does not amount to contempt of court.

However, Justice Arun Mishra was not quite eager to consider these arguments and diverted the attention to the discussion on circumstances under which such allegations can be made against the judges.

Recently, in another case, the Supreme Court had found Bhushan guilty of contempt of court for his tweets against the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and the Indian judiciary. He was fined ₹1 by the court, although Bhushan asserts that he will challenge the court verdict.

Meanwhile, Bhushan’s political group Swaraj Abhiyan has kicked off a new campaign to accept donations under the “Rupee One, Everyone: The Truth Fund” banner. The campaign launched on September 5 is urging people who support Bhushan to contribute ₹1 (or more) to the fund.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.

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Rakesh Raman