Deccan Chronicle

SC asks AG to assist court in contempt case


The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Attorney General K.K. Venugopal to assist the court in a 2009 contempt case against activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan for alleging misconduct against former Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia for being a part of forest bench that had decided the case of Niyamgiri mining lease in favour of Sterlite - a subsidiary of mining major Vedanta.

Alleging misconduct against Justice Kapadia Bhushan had said that he (Justice Kapadia) had shares of Sterlite and thus should not have heard the matter.

Besides Bhushan, former editor of Tehelka – Tarun Tejpal is also facing contempt proceeding­s in the case. Justice Kapadia went on to become Chief Justice of India on May 12, 2010 and had passed away on January 4, 2016.

Seeking the assistance of Attorney General Venugopal in the matter, a bench comprising Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Sanjiv Khanna directed the top court registry to furnish complete record of case proceeding­s in AG’s office.

The court agreed to ask Venugopal to assist the court following a submission by senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, who appeared for Bhushan, said that some larger issues were involved in the matter and the Attorney General be requested to assist the court.

The court directed the listing of the matter in the week commencing from October 12 for further hearing.

Earlier a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, who has since retired, had embarked on examining the larger issues involving the allegation of corruption against sitting and retired judges and the procedure of dealing with such complaints making allegation­s.

However, the matter was left to be considered by another bench as Justice Mishra was left with a few days to demit the office.

Senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan appearing for Bhushan told the court that it was not a matter of Prashant Bhushan but some important questions are to be considered in the matter and so “we want the Attorney General to assist this court in dealing with the questions framed by the previous bench and also questions given by us”.

In an earlier hearing Justice Mishra heading a bench had said that certain larger questions relating to freedom of speech and leveling allegation of corruption charges against the judiciary has to be addressed and decided by the court.

Dhavan had sought to impress upon the court to refer the matter to a Constituti­on bench and submitted 10 questions which he said were of constituti­onal importance and should be settled.

On August 17, the then bench of Justice Mishra had framed certain questions and asked the parties to address it on three issues - whether such statements about corruption against judges or judiciary can be made, in what circumstan­ces they can be made and what is the procedure to be adopted with respect to sitting and retired judges.

Ten questions Dhavan sought to be answered included whether a bona fide opinion on the extent of corruption in any section of the judiciary amounts to contempt of court and whether the person who expresses such an opinion is obliged to prove that it is correct or whether it is enough to show that he bona fide held that opinion.

● ALLEGING MISCONDUCT against Justice Kapadia, Bhushan had said that he (Justice Kapadia) had shares of Sterlite and thus should not have heard the matter.

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