Prashant Bhushan: What are the cases against him about?
The 2009 case against Bhushan was filed by senior advocate Harish Salve in
connection with an interview published in Tehelka magazine, in which he made
allegations of corruption in the judiciary. Apart from Bhushan, then Tehelka
editor Tarun Tejpal was also charged with contempt of court.
In 2010, a three-judge Bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir had issued notices
to Bhushan and Tejpal, but the case only came up for hearing when the SC
recently initiated a fresh contempt case against Bhushan.
The fresh case involves two tweets by Bhushan about the Supreme Court's
functioning and the Chief Justice of India. On August 14, the Supreme Court
found the two tweets amounting to serious contempt of court. In this case,
Bhushan has refused to apologize and has stood his ground that the tweets
reflected his Bonafide beliefs
, even as the Supreme Court gave him time
to rethink and tender an unconditional apology or withdraw his statement. The
court has now reserved its verdict on the quantum of punishment, if any, to be
imposed on Bhushan.
What are the larger questions in the 2009 case?
Bhushan has argued that the 2009 case would involve questions that required
interpretation of the Constitution and hence it must be referred to a larger
On August 24, through his lawyer Kamini Jaiswal, he submitted a list of 10
questions that needed to be addressed by a Constitution Bench. The most crucial
of these questions is whether expressing Bonafide opinion about the extent of
corruption in any section of the judiciary would amount to contempt of court.
Bhushan also pointed out several conflicting rulings on the subjects of contempt
of court, and bar against speaking in the public domain about complaints against
a judge, and sought reference to a larger Bench to settle the law on these
issues. In a 1995 ruling, Ravichandran Iyer v Justice A M Bhattacharjee, the
Supreme Court had said that lawyers must inform the Chief Justice of that court
about allegations against any judge, with prima facie evidence, so that the CJ
can look into the matter.
Bhushan asked if this procedure is compatible with the reasonable restrictions
imposed on free speech by the Constitution.
Although the 1971 Contempt of Courts Act recognizes truth as a defense in cases,
one of the questions that Bhushan has raised is whether the contemnor has to
prove the allegation or remark on corruption.
How is a reference to a larger Bench made?
As per Article 145(3) of the Constitution, the minimum number of Judges who are
to sit for the purpose of deciding any case involving a substantial question of
law as to the interpretation of this Constitution shall be five. A bench of at
least five judges is set up to hear significant Constitution cases.
When different rulings of same Bench strength are not consistent with one
another, a ruling by a larger Bench of an odd number of judges is preferred to
harmonize the law. Once the questions to be settled are identified, these are
placed before the CJI who will then assign it to a larger Bench. The CJI, as the
master of the roster, decides which Bench would hear the case.
Prashant Bhushan 2020 contempt case: A timeline of events
June 27: Bhushan tweets about an undeclared emergency in the country and the
role of the Supreme Court and last four chief justices of India (in it).
When historians in the future look back at the last six years to see how
democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will
particularly mark the role of the SC in this destruction, and more particularly
the role of the last four CJIs, the tweet had alleged.
June 29: Bhushan tweeted about Chief Justice S. A. Bobde sitting on a Harley
Davidson motorcycle in his hometown Nagpur during the coronavirus outbreak. The
CJI rides a Rs 50-lakh motorcycle belonging to a BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party]
leader at Raj Bhavan, Nagpur, without wearing a mask or helmet, at a time when
he keeps the SC on lockdown mode denying citizens their fundamental right to
access justice! Bhushan had alleged in his second tweet that had accompanied a
picture of CJI Bobde, sitting on a stationary Harley Davidson motorcycle.
July 9: An advocate, Mehek Maheshwari, filed a petition before the SC seeking
initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against Bhushan for his tweets. As
per Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act and Rule 3 of Rules to Regulate
Proceedings for Contempt of SC, the consent of the Attorney- General (A-G) or
the Solicitor-General (S-G) is required before the apex court can hear a
criminal contempt petition filed by an individual.
The court proceeded on its own motion based on the filled petition.
July 22: SC initiates contempt proceedings against Bhushan after taking note of
a complaint filed by a lawyer in this regard; issues notice to him.
August 2: Bhushan refuses to apologize and in his response before the SC told
the Apex court that his statements fell within the domain of free speech. This
would be the first time in this case that Bhushan would refuse to apologize.
Bhushan in his defense cited similar criticism of the SC made by its sitting and
August 5: A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra and also
comprising Justices BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, heard the case for a day and
reserved its verdict.
August 14: SC holds Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his both tweets
�against the judiciary'.
August 24: Bhushan submitted another statement before the apex court maintaining
that he would not apologize. He said that the views expressed by him through his
tweets represented his bona fide (good faith) beliefs and, as a result, an
apology for expressing such beliefs would be insincere.
August 25: Attorney General K K Venugopal urges SC to let Bhushan off the hook.
- SC once again asks Bhushan to apologies. He refuses.
- SC reserves judgment on Bhushan's sentencing.
August 31: SC imposes fine of Re 1 on Bhushan, to be paid by September 15; if he
fails to do so he would be sentenced to a 3-month-jail term and would be
debarment from practice in the apex court for 3 years.
Accepting the fine of Rs 1 imposed by the Supreme Court in the contempt case for
his tweets against the judiciary, but had also indicated that he would file a
review plea against the order.
I reserve my right to file review, I propose to submit and pay fine as directed
by the court, said Bhushan in a press conference.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan was found guilty of criminal contempt of court by a
three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court over two tweets posted last June that
were critical of the judiciary.
A 108-page judgment delivered by the Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and
The Bench justifies its decision to view Bhushan's tweets as scandalizing the
Court and lowering its authority by taking recourse a plethora of Supreme Court
judgments on contempt law.
No error in listing Suo motu matter on judicial side, says Court
The Court starts off its judgment by addressing the objection raised by Bhushan
over the listing of the case on the judicial side without the consent of the
Attorney General after a complaint over Bhushan's tweet was registered first by
Advocate Mahek Maheshwari.
Relying on the Apex Court's recent ruling in Re: Vijay Kurle & Ors, the Bench
held that there was no error in registering a Suo motu case based on the
information received by it.
The only requirement is that the procedure followed is just, fair and in
accordance with the principles of natural justice. The Court added that this was
ensured in the present case.
On the scope of contempt jurisdiction
The Court went on to cite various judgments that expounded on when the Court can
exercise its contempt jurisdiction. In view of these judgments, the Bench
reiterated the following observations, among others:
When a statement is made against a judge as an individual, contempt jurisdiction
would not be available. The object of contempt proceedings is not to afford
protection to judges personally from imputations to which they may be exposed as
individuals However, when the statement is made against a judge as a judge and
which has an adverse effect in the administration of justice, the Court would
certainly be entitled to invoke the contempt jurisdiction.
If a citizen exceeds his free speech rights in a bona fide manner, the Court
would be slow in exercising contempt jurisdiction and show magnanimity. However,
when such a statement is calculated in order to malign the image of judiciary,
the Court would not remain a silent spectator. When the authority of this Court
is itself under attack, the Court would not be an onlooker.
If constructive criticism is made in order to enable systemic correction in the
system, the Court would not invoke the contempt jurisdiction. However, the Court
will act with seriousness and severity where justice is jeopardized by a gross
and/or unfounded attack on the judges and where the attack is calculated to
obstruct or destroy the judicial process.
it is not necessary that there should in fact be an actual interference with the
course of administration of justice but it is enough if the offending
publication is likely or if it tends in any way to interfere with the proper
administration of law.
No act can be permitted, which may have the tendency to shake the public
confidence in the fairness and impartiality of the administration of justice.
The judiciary cannot be immune from criticism. However, when that criticism is
based on obvious distortion or gross misstatement and made in a manner which
seems designed to lower respect for the judiciary and destroy public confidence
in it, it cannot be ignored. An action for contempt of court should not be
frequently or lightly taken. But, at the same time, the Court should not abstain
from using this weapon even when its use is needed to correct standards of
behavior in a grossly and repeatedly erring quarter.
In re tweet on CJI SA Bobde
The first tweet Bhushan was hauled up for pertained to his commentary on a
picture of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on a high-end motorcycle. Bhushan had
"CJI rides a 50 Lakh motorcycle belonging to a BJP leader at Raj Bhavan Nagpur,
without a mask or helmet, at a time when he keeps the SC in Lockdown mode
denying citizens their fundamental right to access Justice!"
The Court took critical note that:
"The impression that the said tweet intends to give is that the CJI as the head
of the Indian judiciary has kept the Supreme Court in lockdown mode, thereby
denying citizens their fundamental right to access justice."
The three-judge Bench found this to be patently false on the following
On the relevant date, the Supreme Court was on summer vacation. Even during this
period, Benches of the Supreme Court were regularly functioning.
Physical court hearings were suspended in view of the COVID-19 pandemic last
March, but virtual hearings were being conducted. The total number of sittings
that the various benches had from March 23 till August 4 is 879. During this
period, the Court has heard 1,2748 matters. Further the Court has dealt with 686
writ petitions filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.
Prashant Bhushan himself had appeared before the Court during this time, both as
an advocate and as litigant.
Therefore, the statement that the Supreme Court is in lockdown is factually
incorrect and patently false, even to the knowledge of Bhushan. The Court took
critical note that he has made a scandalous and malicious statement after having
himself availed the right of an access to justice during the said period, not
only as a lawyer but also as a litigant.
The Bench proceeded to opine:
"In this premise, making such wild allegation thereby giving an impression, that
the CJI is enjoying riding an expensive bike, while he keeps the SC in lockdown
mode and thereby denying citizens their fundamental right to access justice, is
undoubtedly false, malicious and scandalous. It has the tendency to shake the
confidence of the public at large in the institution of judiciary and the
institution of the CJI and undermining the dignity and authority of the
administration of justice. We are unable to accept the contention of the alleged
contemnor No.1, that the said statement was a bona fide criticism made by him on
account of his anguish of nonfunctioning of the courts physically."
In re tweet on last four CJIs and the Supreme Court
In his second controversial tweet, Bhushan had expressed his opinion on the role
of last four CJIs amid the state of affairs in the country, stating,
"When historians in future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy
has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will
particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction, & more
particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs."
The Court said that it is not commenting on the first part of the tweet
concerning the alleged destruction of Indian democracy over the last six years
as "we do not want to convert this proceeding into a platform for political
However, the Court has taken exception to the latter part of the tweet, which
the Bench observed tends to "give an impression, that the Supreme Court has a
particular role in the destruction of democracy in the last six years and the
last four CJIs had a more particular role in the same."
To decide on whether Bhushan had expressed this opinion in good faith, and if he
should be proceeded against for his tweet, the Court also considered the
The extent of publication - The Bench noted that "the publication by tweet
reaches millions of people."
The fact that Advocate Bhushan has been practicing for last 30 years in the
Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court.
In this backdrop, the Court said,
"The scurrilous allegations, which are malicious in nature and have the tendency
to scandalize the Court are not expected from a person, who is a lawyer of 30
years standing. In our considered view, it cannot be said that the above tweets
can be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary, made
bona fide in the public interest."
"In our considered view, the said tweet undermines the dignity and authority of
the institution of the Supreme Court of India and the CJI and directly affronts
the majesty of law ... the tweets which are based on the distorted facts, in our
considered view, amount to committing of �criminal contempt.'"
The Bench added,
"If such an attack is not dealt with, with requisite degree of firmness, it may
affect the national honor and prestige in the comity of nations. Fearless and
impartial courts of justice are the bulwark of a healthy democracy and the
confidence in them cannot be permitted to be impaired by malicious attacks upon
The Court, therefore, found Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt. However, it
discharged Twitter from the contempt case, accepting its explanation that the
platform is only an intermediary that "does not have any control on what the
users post on the platform."
"It has also showed bona fides immediately after the cognizance was taken by
this Court as it has suspended both the tweets. We, therefore, discharge the
notice issued to the alleged contemnor No.2 (Twitter)", the Court said.
Why is the court repeatedly asking for an apology?
The Contempt of Courts Act 1971 lays down the procedure to be followed in
contempt cases. It also says that the offence is punishable with simple
imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may
extend to Rs 2,000, or both.
However, Section 12 of the Act also adds an exception to the punishment
prescribed. Provided that the accused may be discharged or the punishment
awarded may be remitted on apology being made to the satisfaction of the court,
the law says.
SC Didn't Consider Prashant Bhushan's Full Defence Before Holding Him in
In this case, the court shifted the entire burden on Bhushan to defend his
alleged contemporaneous tweets. Then it passed a judgment without considering
the defence presented by him.
few scholars have managed to analyse the legal reasoning behind the judgement on
account of the apex court's failure (more worryingly, the absence of an attempt)
to examine the defence raised by Bhushan in his extensive affidavit in reply.
However, in the sentencing hearing that took place on August 20, the court gave
an explanation for this. During the hearing, Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for
Bhushan, argued that the court had failed to take Bhushan's affidavit into
account in its judgment. In reply to this contention, Justice Mishra replied
that this was because Dushyant Dave, counsel for Bhushan, had argued other
Justice Gavai went a step further and stated that Dave had referred to only some
portions of the affidavit which were taken into account in the judgment (a plain
reading of the judgment shows that even the first 40 pages of the affidavit were
not considered), giving the impression that the remaining portions of the
affidavit were not taken into account as they were not orally argued before the
Consider the implications of this statement: The Supreme Court, in a suo motu
contempt proceeding, did not take the affidavit in reply of the contemnor into
consideration while holding him guilty of criminal contempt because the
defendant's counsel did not read the entire affidavit in open court.
The court's failure to consider Bhushan's entire reply is contrary to the law
laid down by the Supreme Court in previous contempt cases
Power and procedure in contempt cases: Is there no difference?
The power to punish for contempt flows from Article 129 of the constitution. As
referenced in the judgment, the said power cannot be curtailed by the Contempt
of Courts Act, 1971, however the Act lays down the procedure to be followed.
18�. Section 15 is not the source of the power to issue notice for contempt. It
only provides the procedure in which such contempt is to be initiated�. It is
equally well settled, that once the Court takes cognizance, the matter is purely
between the Court and the contemnor. The only requirement is that, the procedure
followed is required to be just and fair and in accordance with the principles
of natural justice�.
Under the Act, Section 17 provides for the procedure to be followed after the
court takes cognizance of contempt, while subsection 5 thereof provides:
Any person charged with contempt under Section 15 may file an affidavit in
support of his defense, and the court may determine the matter of the charge
either on the affidavits filed or after taking such further evidence as may be
necessary, and pass such order as the justice of the case requires.
Thus, after the court issues notice of criminal contempt to any person, it has
to examine the matter either based on the affidavit in reply or after taking
such further evidence as may be necessary. This section is just an elaboration
of the principles of natural justice, which the court is bound to uphold, as
every accused must have a chance to defend themselves, and the court is bound to
give a fair consideration to this defense.
In the present case, the court did not deem it necessary to consider further
evidence, but seemingly did not even deem it necessary to consider the entire
defense of Bhushan before holding him in contempt!
Burden of proof
Let us divert our attention to the question of burden of proof in contempt
cases. In Mrityunjoy Das & Another v. Sayed Rahman & Others (2001) 3 SCC 739
Para 14, the Supreme Court had held that:
The common English phrase he who asserts must prove has its due application in
the matter of proof of allegations said to be constituting the act of contempt.
As regards the standard of proof, be it noted that a proceeding under the
extraordinary jurisdiction of the court in terms of the provisions of the
Contempt of Courts Act is quasi-criminal, and as such the proof required is that
of criminal proceeding and the breach shall have to be established beyond
In the present matter, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of Bhushan's
tweets, so it was purely between the court and Bhushan. Surely the burden was on
the court to show beyond reasonable doubt why Bhushan is being held in criminal
contempt. This burden cannot be discharged without rebutting the reply furnished
by the defendant, or at least providing an explanation as to why the
justifications given by him were unacceptable.
Another point to consider is that while Section 19 of the Act provides for a
right to appeal against decisions of the high court, no such appeal is available
from an order of the Supreme Court, so naturally, the Supreme Court should be
extremely careful in using its iron hand in the first instance.
Defence of truth
Let us also consider one of the main defences available to a person in a
contempt case: the defence of truth. The same is available under Section 13 of
the Act as amended in 2006. This defence has also been read into Articles 129
and 215 of the constitution by the Supreme Court in Indirect Tax Practitioners'
Association v. R.K. Jain, (2010) 8 SCC 281, wherein it held:
In our view, if a speech or article, editorial, etc. contains something which
appears to be contemptuous and this Court or the High Court is called upon to
initiate proceedings under the Act and Articles 129 and 215 of the Constitution,
the truth should ordinarily be allowed as a defence unless the Court finds that
it is only a camouflage to escape the consequences of deliberate or malicious
attempt to scandalise the court or is an interference with the administration of
This view was quoted with approval by a constitution bench in Subramaniam
Swamy v. Arun Shourie
, (2014) 12 SCC 344.
Time and again, the Supreme Court has held that truth is a valid defence in
contempt cases, and the burden is on the person alleging contempt to show that
the explanation of the alleged contemnor is incorrect. Since the present case
was a suo motu petition, the burden of proving that the explanation of Bhushan
was unsustainable in law was on the court, and only after a detailed examination
of the reply could such a burden be discharged.
The opportunity to file a reply was also given to Justice C.S. Karnan when suo
motu cognisance of contempt was taken against him (2017 SCC Online 703, para
42). Only after Justice Karnan refused to file any response, did the court
continue with the proceedings presuming he had nothing to say in his defence and
then convicted him of contempt.
In the present case, the court allowed Bhushan to file his affidavit in reply
justifying his tweets, in accordance with the principles of natural justice,
however, it chose to not examine the contents thereof (professedly because
Bhushan's counsel failed to read the entire affidavit before the court) and
proceeded to hold Bhushan guilty of contempt, thus ensuring that the spirit of
the principles of natural justice were thrown out the window.
Even in Re Vijay Kurle & Ors.
2020 SCC Online 407, a case on which the
court heavily relies on in the judgment, the Supreme Court had considered the
defendant's defence of truth, it held that:
Though not so much in the oral arguments but in the written arguments the
alleged contemnors have also raised the plea of truth as a defence. Truth as a
defence is available to any person charged with contempt of Court. However, on
going through all the written arguments and the pleadings, other than saying
that the Judges had misinterpreted the judgments of this Court or had ignored
them or that Justice R.F. Nariman was biased, there is no material placed on
record to support this defence.
The defence was refused only after the court examined the entire written
arguments and pleadings, an exercise which has evidently not carried up by the
court in the present case.
The most basic understanding of established law in India is that the pleadings
in a case are the written pleadings, and the oral pleadings are based on the
A counsel chooses to argue the points which she thinks are most relevant from
the written pleadings, but does that mean that the court can disregard written
pleadings in its entirety if the counsel chooses not to read the entire written
pleadings in open court?
In this case, the court shifted the entire burden of proof on to Bhushan to
defend his alleged contemporaneous tweets, and then passed a judgment without
considering the defence presented by him. No matter what one thinks of Bhushan's
tweets, the court had the responsibility to ensure that due process of law was
followed before holding him in criminal contempt, and as can be seen from the
judgment and explanation furnished by the judges in open court, the court
seemingly forgot its responsibility in order to hastily convict him.
Here's What the AG Wanted to Say About the Judiciary, Before Justice Arun Mishra
K.K. Venugopal was about to give the court the names of judges who had spoken
against corruption in the higher judiciary. I have put together the list
attorney general K.K. Venugopal told the Supreme Court bench of Justices Arun
Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari that he has the names of nine former
judges of the Supreme Court who have said that there is corruption in higher
Seven of them, he said, made the remark immediately after their retirement:
Five judges of the Supreme Court who have said that democracy has failed in the
Supreme Court � which is what Bhushan said in his tweets. Secondly, I have nine
judges of the Supreme Court saying that there is corruption in the higher
judiciary. Two of them made statements while they chaired (not clear). Seven of
them said so immediately after their retirement. I have extracts from all of
them. I myself made a speech in 1987 in the Indian Law Institute.
At this point, the judges did not allow Venugopal to proceed. Justice Mishra,
who stopped the AG mid-sentence said the bench did not want to hear him on the
of the case.
The AG clearly had in mind the four Supreme Court judges who had expressed
concerns about democracy at their historic press conference in January 2018 and
after, and a fifth, Justice Gopal Gowda, who also has spoken up about the
matter. All of their comments have a direct bearing on the contempt case against
Prashant Bhushan for his recent tweet.
Venugopal's reference to judges speaking about corruption, while germane to the
charge against Bhushan of �scandalizing' the judiciary, also connects with an
old contempt case the Justice Mishra bench has revived against Bhushan for an
interview he gave Tehelka magazine in 2009.
I have put together the list of judges the AG was likely referring to, and
what they said about corruption in the judiciary and the failure of democracy:
Justice E.S. Venkatramaiah Justice Venkatramaiah was the 19th chief justice of India, and held office
from June 19, 1989 to December 17, 1989.
He told journalist Kuldip Nayar on the eve of his retirement:
The judiciary in India has deteriorated in its standards because such judges
are appointed as are willing to be �influenced by lavish parties and whisky
He reminded the sitting judges of former Union minister of law and justice
P. Shiv Shankar's pungent statement: Anti-social elements, that is FERA
violators, bride burners and a whole horde of reactionaries, found their
haven in the Supreme Court.
Contempt proceedings were sought to be initiated in 1990 against Justice
Venkatramaiah before the Bombay high court. The complainant, one Vishwanath,
son of Gopal Palshikar, claimed that the judge had scandalized the court by
this statement, which was attributed to him in the interview:
In every high court, there were at least four to five judges who were
practically out every evening, wining and dining either at a lawyer's house
or a foreign embassy and that the estimate of the number of such judges was
around 90 and that practically in all the 22 high courts in the country,
close relations of the judges were thriving.
Justice Venkatramaiah favored transferring such judges to other high courts.
Justice Venkatramaiah reiterated that close relatives of judges should be
debarred from practicing in the same high courts. He expressed himself
strongly against sons, sons-in-law and brothers of judges appearing in the
courts where the latter are on the bench. He said that most judges'
relatives are practicing in the high courts of Allahabad, Chandigarh, Delhi
In his interview, former CJI Venkataramiah said that in practically all 22
high courts in the country, close relatives of judges were thriving. There
were allegations that certain judgments have been influenced through them
even though they have not been directly engaged as lawyers in such cases, he
It is hard to disregard the reports that every brother, son or son-in-law of
a judge, whatever his merit or lack of it as a lawyer, can be sure of
earning an income of more than Rs 10,000 a month, he said in that interview.
Nayar said in the preface to that interview:
Sad and sombre, Chief Justice Venkataramiah said that he had vainly tried to
bring to the notice of Judges the Law Commission Report which has cited
examples to prove how Judges compromise their position and prefer to be seen
in the precincts of government houses and elsewhere.
The government pleader, Badar, citing this portion of the interview, told
the court that the entire judgment had to be judged and appreciated in the
light of the fact the former CJI's motive was to improve the judiciary.
According to Badar, Nayar did not fail to notice that the former CJI felt
hurt while expressing his feelings.
A similar petition was filed in the Supreme Court by the then chairman of
the Jammu and Kashmir Legal Aid Committee, Bhim Singh. He sought a direction
from the Supreme Court to disclose the names of 90 judges of the different
high courts as mentioned by the former CJI. The petition was dismissed by
the Supreme Court on February 1, 1990.
The petitioner before the Bombay high court contended that had the former
CJI disclosed the names of 90 judges, it would have been a different matter.
But that not having been done, every judge of the high court became a
The bench, however, disagreed, and reminded him of a Chinese proverb As long
as you are up-right, do not care if your shadow is crooked. The bench
reasoned that the former CJI's statement referred only to such judges who
were indulging in �wining and dining' at lawyers' houses or foreign
embassies or whose sons, sons-in-law and brothers were minting money by
abusing their position.
Without getting the advocate general's consent, the petitioner sought Suo
motu action by the court in the matter, in view of the grave nature of the
contempt. Despite the court asking the petitioner to seek the AG's consent,
he refused to do so, and requested the court to take Suo motu action on the
basis of the facts he brought to its notice.
The bench, however, dismissed the petition on the ground of maintainability
as well as on merits.
The interview was published in several newspapers including Lokmat and
Dainik Rashtradoot in Nagpur. Both Justice Venkatramaiah and Nayar were made
On March 2, 1990, Justices M.M. Qazi and B.U. Wahane of the Nagpur bench of
the high court dismissed the petition.
Justice Venkatramaiah died on September 24, 1997 at the age of 72
Justice S.P. Bharucha In a speech in 2001, Justice Bharucha, the then CJI, lamented that 20% of
the judges in India were corrupt. He made this speech during the Law Day
function on November 26, 2001 on the lawns of the Supreme Court. In his
speech, he refers to what he said in public before assuming office as the
A petition seeking to initiate contempt proceedings against the former CJI
for making this speech was dismissed by the Rajasthan high court later.
- Justice Michael Saldahna
Justice Saldahna of the Karnataka high court has been quoted as saying that
33% of the judiciary is corrupt.
Justice Markandey Katju During his term as chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Katju
alleged corruption in the Supreme Court. He said three former chief justices
of India had compromised in giving an extension to an additional judge of
the Madras high court at the insistence of the then UPA government at the
Centre, under pressure from one of its allies, the DMK.
By rejecting Mr. Shanti Bhushan's petition seeking registration of an FIR
against Justice C.K.Prasad for gross corruption, the Indian Supreme Court
has once again sought to bury corruption by one of its own members under the
carpet, forgetting that however much one may seek to conceal it, the bulge
I accuse the Indian judiciary of repeatedly burying corruption by its own
members under the carpet. I accuse it of being hypocritical by speaking
against corruption by politicians and bureaucrats, but deliberately
protecting its own corrupt brethren.
Justice J. Chelameswar In an interview to the Economic Times, Justice Chelameswar said:
Corruption does exist. Why was Quddusi arrested? A former judge of a high
court in this country was arrested�If this institution is discredited,
democracy is not safe. All my effort was to preserve the institution,
strengthen it by creating a greater degree of credibility which can only
come through transparent functioning. That was my whole effort�. Judges will
be politically influenced. To say that judges are not touched by politics,
I think is not an honest statement.
And mind you, I am not talking of party politics. The question is how
dispassionately can judges handle the current political events�. No direct
pressure, but there are subtle ways of putting the pressure (in answer to
the question whether there is more political pressure now).
At a press conference held with Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and
Kurian Joseph on January 12, 2018, Chelameswar said, Twenty years later some
wise men shouldn't say judges sold their souls.
Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah There are just 25 judges in the Supreme Court in a country with a population
of a billion-plus. And even there, some of them turn out corrupt, former CJI
Venkatachaliah told Anuradha Raman of Outlook in 2011. The most heinous
crime is the CJI incurring criticism, or giving room for doubts that his
hands are dirty.
Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer Justice Iyer was among those who demanded former CJI K.G. Balakrishnan's
resignation as the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission
following allegations of corruption. Two former judges of the Kerala high
court, Justice P.K. Shamsuddin and Justice K. Sukumaran, also made serious
allegations against Justice Balakrishnan.
Justice Krishna Iyer wrote an open letter to then Congress general secretary
Rahul Gandhi in 2011, saying:
The judicature, a sacred instrument with great powers to punish corruption,
is itself corrupt. Not a single corrupt judge has been caught or punished.
In 2013, he wrote to the then president, Pranab Mukherjee, seeking a probe
and action against some senior Supreme Court judges who, he said, are
suspect of moral deviance. He told the president that the scourge of bribery
tainting politics had not polluted the judiciary for long, but that was
becoming a matter of the past.
Justice J. S. Verma I cannot say that there has not been a single corrupt judge even in the
Supreme Court. You have that in public knowledge, Justice J.S. Verma, who
was CJI from March 1997 to January 1998, told CNN-IBN. He agreed that the
rot ran deep in the judicial system.
Justice Verma also revealed that his successor, CJI M.M. Punchhi, was
sworn-in despite his reservations because the then prime minister, I.K.
Gujral, did not order an inquiry into the allegations which he had forwarded
to him, requesting a probe. He said, When I joined the bar 40 years back, no
one talked about corruption even in the district judges. Now when people
talk about corruption even in the apex court, I feel like it is a slap on my
Justice A.K. Ganguly On corruption in the judiciary, while releasing a book on corruption in
2011, Supreme Court judge Justice Ganguly said:
I am happy that Prof. Raj Kumar has also talked about corruption in the
judiciary. He has referred to recent cases of impeachment. But in the next
edition, he may kindly correct that Justice Dinakaran is not from Sikkim
high court, but basically from Madras high court. Both the learned Judges
referred to; I cannot defend them. I feel sorry for them. If the judges of
the high court today are accused of this kind of things, then what will
happen to elimination of corruption? Even then I appreciate the candour and
the courage with which Prof. Raj Kumar has attempted this book. This is a
very valiant effort.
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