NEW DELHI—The Supreme Court judgment holding well-known public interest lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court will discourage lawyers from being outspoken and this cannot lead to a strong court, Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde told HuffPost India.
“The judgment in Prashant Bhushan, will discourage lawyers from being outspoken. A silenced bar cannot lead to a strong court,” said Hegde on Friday afternoon.
Hegde, himself a reputed Senior Advocate with a strong record of engagement in public interest issues, was candid in his assessment of the SC’s controversial judgment in his statement to this reporter.
“Prashant Bhushan joins the ranks of EMS Namboodiripad and Arundhati Roy in having been convicted by the Supreme Court on a charge of contempt. The judgment will add to textbooks on Contempt, but will leave most readers wondering whether it does anything to restore the authority of the court in the eyes of the public,” Hegde said.
Bhushan has been held guilty of contempt for two of his tweets criticising what he considers to be the record of the top court and Chief Justices during the past six years.
The judgment in Prashant Bhushan, will discourage lawyers from being outspoken. A silenced bar, cannot lead to a strong court.Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde
Speaking to HuffPost India, Hegde referred to two quotes relevant to the present context.
The first was written by Lord Atkin in 1936 in a contempt of court case, “Justice is not a cloistered virtue...She must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken, comment of ordinary men.”
Hegde also cited the famous statement of freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak carved on a marble tablet outside the courtroom in the Bombay High Court, where he was convicted of sedition by Justice Dinshaw Davar for his articles in the Marathi newspaper Kesari. “There are higher powers that rule the destinies of men and nations and I think it may be the will of Providence that the cause I represent may be benefitted more by my suffering than by my pen and tongue,” Tilak said on 22 July 1908.
While the SC gave the guilty verdict on Bhushan on Friday, it will declare quantum of punishment on Thursday, August 20.