Monday, September 20, 2010

Not contempt of court, says Prashant Bhushan

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, facing contempt of court proceedings for his interview in Tehelka magazine levelling allegations of corruption against some of the Supreme Court judges has in a fresh affidavit reiterated the charges and claimed that his assertions were supported by documentary evidence.

Taking truth as a valid defence in contempt of court cases, Mr. Bhushan said that his perception that half out of the last 16 to 17 Chief Justices of India had been corrupt was based on some documentary, some oral and some circumstantial evidence, material and information that he had.

A three-judge Bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir is hearing the contempt of court case against Mr. Bhushan. It was in this case that his father and former Union Law Minister Shanti Bhushan filed an affidavit charging the CJIs with corruption.

In his fresh affidavit, Mr. Prashant Bhushan said: “As regards my statement about the last 16-17 Chief Justices, I would like to state that these include some of the finest and most upright Chief Justices that we have ever had. When I said that in my view about half of the last 16-17 Chief Justices were corrupt, I certainly did not intend to paint the entire judiciary or the entire Supreme Court with the same brush. I believe that the Supreme Court has had and continues to have many outstanding judges and Chief Justices, due to whose tireless efforts we have been able to hold on to some of our cherished fundamental rights and continue to be regarded as a nation governed by the rule of law. It is because of them that people in this country still turn to the Courts in the hope of getting justice.

“However, I would be remiss in my duty as a campaigner for judicial accountability and reforms had I not stated my honest opinion about the serious and indeed alarming state of corruption in the higher judiciary. I felt that it is important to dispel an erroneous impression which some people still harbour, that corruption in the judiciary is confined to the lower judiciary and that the higher judiciary is free thereof. It was to underline this, that I mentioned my perception about half of the last 16-17 Chief Justices.

“I have placed documentary information on record to dispel any impression that my remarks were baseless or made with reckless disregard to the truth. I had done so in public interest, only to draw attention to the extent of the problem and the urgent need to correct the situation by putting in place robust and effective institutional mechanisms for enforcing the accountability of the higher judiciary. I submit that this cannot and must not be held to be contempt of Court.”

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