Senior advocates seek larger bench ‘to review standards of criminal contempt’

The bench said it would on August 20 hear arguments on what sentence to be given to him. The Contempt of Courts Act envisages a maximum jail term of six months for the offence, a fine or both.

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New Delhi: A group of senior advocates on Monday wrote to the Supreme Court against its order convicting activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan for contempt of court, a decision which has also been criticised by several former judges.

A top court bench led by Justice Arun Mishra on Friday convicted Bhushan over two recent tweets accusing the Chief Justice and the institution of failing to protect the fundamental rights of citizens during the pandemic.

The bench said it would on August 20 hear arguments on what sentence to be given to him. The Contempt of Courts Act envisages a maximum jail term of six months for the offence, a fine or both.


On Monday, Bhushan’s lawyer told the court that he would file a petition to review the order. The order has attracted criticism from former judges of the SC and high courts, including Madan B Lokur, GS Singhvi, AP Shah, Ruma Pal, B Sudershan Reddy, Aftab Alam, NK Sodhi and Anjana Prakash.

Senior lawyers such as Navriz Seervai, Darius Khambatta, Jayant Bhushan, Arvind Datar, Anoop George Chaudhary, Dushyant Dave, Bishwajit Bhattarcharyya, CU Singh, Shekhar Naphade, Raju Ramachandran and Kamini Jaiswal wrote to the court, expressing their anguish over the decision to convict a lawyer of repute who had always spoken up for the weaker sections and the minorities.

They also expressed their disappointment over the court’s refusal to seek the opinion of the attorney general on the issue.
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“We are of the firm view that the judgement must not be given effect to until a larger bench, sitting in open court after the pandemic, has the opportunity to review the standards of criminal contempt,” a joint letter written by 41 senior lawyers said. The lawyers urged the court to “hear the voice of the people”.
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