Skip to main content

Contempt petitions against Prashant Bhushan meant to intimidate critics: Top activists

Counterview Desk
More than 100 activists, academics and former civil servants have signed a statement expressing solidarity with leading human rights advocate Prashant Bhushan, against whom contempt petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court. The statement says, "Unfortunately, expressing an apprehension that the government might be misleading the apex court is being alleged to be contempt of court."
Signed, among others, by Aruna Roy, Wajahat Habibullah, Medha Patkar, Harsh Mander, Binayak Sen, Prabhat Patnaik, Anjali Bhardwaj, Prakash Singh, Shailesh Gandhi, Nikhil Dey, Syeda Hameed, Sandeep Pandey, Yogendra Yadav, Prafulla Samantara, EAS Sarma, Sucheta Dalal, and Aakar Patel, the statement insists, "We see this as a clear attempt to intimidate and silence one of the leading advocates in the country, who unflinchingly takes up issues of corruption and abuse of power and has relentlessly supported the struggles of the vulnerable and marginalized."

Text of the statement:

We are writing to express our concern and deep anguish at the filing of contempt petitions against well-known human rights advocate Prashant Bhushan. He was appearing in a matter challenging the appointment of the interim director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and seeking greater transparency in the process of appointment of the CBI director.
In October 2018, the central government had unilaterally, without the approval of the high powered selection committee, appointed Nageshwar Rao as interim CBI director.
This decision was quashed by the Supreme Court in January 2019 on the grounds that it was not made as per the procedure laid down in Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which mandates that the appointment can only be done on the basis of the recommendations of a high powered selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India (or any judge of the SC nominated by him) and the Leader of Opposition (or leader of single largest party in opposition).
Just two days after the judgment, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) issued an order again appointing Nageshwar Rao as interim CBI director. The order stated that this was done “as per the earlier arrangement" and did not, in any manner, indicate that it had the approval of the selection committee.
On January 14, 2019, a letter addressed to the Prime Minister by Mallikarjun Kharge, who is a member of the high powered selection committee, was published by the "Indian Express" and also put in the public domain.
The letter signed by Mallikarjun Kharge explicitly states that:
“9. Finally, we come to the vexing issue of the appointment of an interim director unilaterally by the government. The appointment of an interim director (a post that does not legally exist as per the DSPE Act) has once again been made without consulting the Selection Committee.
"10. The Government seemed to have made up its mind on appointing an Interim director and hence this was never placed before the selection committee in the 10th Jan 2019 meeting. This appointment of an interim director is illegal and against section 4A(1) and 4A(3) of the DSPE Act.”
In a hearing on February 1, 2019 in the Supreme Court, the Attorney General (AG) stated that the selection committee had taken a decision on interim CBI director and handed over minutes of the relevant meetings in a sealed cover to the bench. A copy of the minutes, when sought, was denied to Prashant Bhushan, with the AG claiming that the minutes were confidential.
Subsequent to the hearing, Mallikarjun Kharge confirmed to Prashant Bhushan that, as indicated in his letter, the issue of appointment of the interim CBI director was not discussed in the selection committee. This naturally raised serious doubts about the veracity of the documents presented in a sealed cover by the government to the apex court, and Prashant Bhushan raised this concern in his tweets, which are reproduced below:
“Today in CBI Dir appt case, the government made a startling new claim that Nageswara Rao was selected as the interim director in the HPC meeting on 11th January when they decided to transfer out Alok Verma! This seems to be at variance from LOP Kharge's version. https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/prashant-bhushan-vs-arun-mishra-j--142574 (sic)”.
“I have just confirmed personally from the Leader of Opposition Mr Kharge that no discussion or decision in HPC meet was taken re appt of Nageswara Rao as interim director CBI. The govt appears to have misled the court and perhaps submitted fabricated minutes of the HPC meeting! (sic)”.
“See the letter of LOP Kharge re the unilateral appointment of Nageswara Rao as interim director CBI by govt, w/o going through HPC of PM, CJI & LOP. Yet govt produced minutes of meeting saying that HPC approved appt. Seems govt gave fabricated minutes to court! Contempt of Court! (a photograph of the letter by Mr. Kharge was included in the tweet) (sic)”.
Subsequently, contempt petitions were filed against Prashant Bhushan alleging that the tweets amount to contempt of court. One of the contempt petitions included the redacted minutes of the meetings of the high powered selection committee, which had been handed over to the Court in a sealed envelope by the AG and denied to Prashant Bhushan on the grounds that they are confidential.
The redacted minutes state that the selection committee, with the dissenting view of Mallikarjun Kharge, decided that the Central government may post a suitable officer to look after the duties of the CBI director till the appointment of a new director of CBI.
If it was possible to make the redacted minutes of the selection committee public, it is inexplicable why they were kept secret earlier. If the minutes had been disclosed or shared with the petitioners, the doubts expressed by Prashant Bhushan in his tweets would never have arisen.
In fact, this is precisely the reason why greater transparency in the appointment process is imperative - undue secrecy erodes public trust and raises suspicion and doubts in the minds of people. Transparency is a pre-requisite to instil public confidence and faith in democratic institutions.
In the given circumstances, it is concerning that an attempt is being made to misconstrue doubts raised about the veracity of material handed over in a sealed cover by the government as contempt of court. Unfortunately, expressing an apprehension that the government might be misleading the apex court is being alleged to be contempt of court.
We see this as a clear attempt to intimidate and silence one of the leading advocates in the country, who unflinchingly takes up issues of corruption and abuse of power and has relentlessly supported the struggles of the vulnerable and marginalized.
We stand in complete solidarity with Prashant Bhushan.

Comments

TRENDING

North Gujarat gram panchayat bars villagers from dealing with Muslim hawkers, traders

By Our Representative  A gram panchayat in North Gujarat has barred its residents not to buy anything from Muslim traders and hawkers. An order of the Waghasan group gram panchayat of Tharad taluka of Banaskantha district dated June 30 states that the decision has been taken in the wake of beheading of a Hindu tailor after he posted a derogatory writeup on Prophet Mohammad in Udaipur. The gram panchayat resolution says, anyone seen buying or selling any commodity from a Muslim hawker or trader would be fined Rs 5,100. Bringing this to light, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee, in a letter to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, says, the state government should take legal action against the panchayat chief who has signed the “unjust” order. The letter says, the act of the sarpanch and other signatories is a violation of rule of law of the state and threat to peace, pointing out, the move is in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution, which says that none

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

'Drop all falsed charges': 150 citizens demand early release of AltNews co-founder

Counterview Desk  About 150 concerned citizens have demanded the release of Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checkng newsportal AltNews, arrested over a 2018 tweet which allegedly hurt religious sentiments, even as booking for criminal conspiracy and having received foreign funds in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). Denied bail last weekend and sent to 14-day judicial custody, the concerned citizens, in a statement, regretted that while the Delhi High Court issued notice to the Delhi police on a petition filed on behalf of Zubair challenging the legality and propriety of his police remand and the seizure of his electronic devices, the “frivolous case” continues. Excerpts: The illegal arrest of Mr. Mohammed Zubair happened on June 27, 2022, by the Delhi Police for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity over a tweet from 2018. The IPC Sections included 153(a) (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race,

Chennai residents 'suffering': Faulty design, implementation of storm water project

By NS Venkataraman*  The Greater Chennai Corporation is now implementing storm water drainage project in 559 roads, covering a distance of 1033 kilometres, which cost around Rs 4,070 crore. For this massive project, which is targeted to be completed between April and September this year, huge loan has been availed from World Bank, Asian Development Bank and others. Several technocrats have pointed out that the project has been designed with outdated technology and quality of the implementation is so poor that the residents have been put to great hardships. As part of the project, digging of the road has been done to around 5 to 6 feet deep and width of around 4 to 5 feet. The drains are being constructed using steel reinforced cement concrete with two walls on either side with provisions for manhole, chute etc. This has been done in front of several houses leaving little space between the gate of the house and that of the drainage structure. As the work has been going on for mor

Prime Minister's 'affordable' housing policy fails to help Gujarat slum dwellers: Study

By Rajiv Shah  A new study on the implementation of one of the major policy initiatives for the urban poor by the Narendra Modi government after it came to power, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), has said that in Gujarat, which happens to be the Prime Minister’s home state, has quoted state officials as “confirming” that no progress towards tenure regularization, a key requirement for providing housing to the state’s slum dwellers. Stating that this particularly true of smaller town, the study, carried out by the non-profit Homes in the City (HIC), which is based in Bhuj, district headquarter of Kutch that saw a devastating earthquake in 2001, says, the failure to provide affordable housing is there despite the fact that there has been “significant demand” in all the 83 out of 153 Gujarat municipalities studied by experts involved in the study. According to the study, out f a total of 1.41 lakh demands for housing under the Beneficiary Led Construction (BLC) category, 94,232 (66.7%)

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'Contractor-official nexus led to RTI activist's murder': Fact-finding team seeks probe

Courtyard inside of PWD office where Ranjeet Soni was killed Counterview Desk  A fact-finding team* visited Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh (MP) on June 19, 2022 to meet with the family of Ranjeet Soni, who was shot dead on June 2, 2022 inside the premises of the PWD office in Vidisha. The objective was to gather information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ranjeet Soni and his work on exposing corruption through the use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A report prepared by the team members says that Ranjeet had been extensively using the RTI Act to access information from the government, and upon receiving documents showing misuse of public funds or corruption, he was filing complaints to various authorities including the Lokyukta, Publi Works Department (PWD) and the Chief Minister’s Office. It notes, Ranjeet used to work as a contractor and often undertook government works in collaboration with other contractors, including those being investigated for his murder. A f

Electricity Bill: Centre's reform measures contain 'carrot and stick package' for states

Counterview Desk  The Peoples’ Commission on Public Sector and Public Services (PCPSPS), claiming to be a network of eminent academics, jurists, erstwhile administrators, trade unionists and social activists, seeking consultations with stakeholders with those who are against the government’s decision to monetise, disinvest and privatise public assets/enterprises, has said that the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill-2022 will have far-reaching impacts on the finances of states. Insisting that the proposed Bill would lead to “assault on India’s federal structure”, in a statement, it says, it would weaken the finances of states’ power distribution companies, have adverse impact on utility employees, cripple the states' finances, impose a heavy cost burden on the smaller subsidized consumers (especially farmers), and benefit only corporate business houses. “States cannot afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of the Bill on their economy, finances, agricultural and industria

'Highly abnormal': AltNews journo's arrest suggests 'deterioration in media freedom'

By Bharat Dogra*  Leading media organizations have come out in strong support of recently arrested journalist Mohammed Zubair. These organizations include, among others, the Editors Guild of India, the Press Club of India, the Delhi Union of Journalists and DIGIPUB, a platform for several important digital media organizations. All these organizations have condemned the recent arrest of the noted journalist and demanded his immediate release. While leading human rights organizations and political parties have also made somewhat similar statements, the strong support of media organizations is particularly important as the effort of the authorities has been to try to present the arrested journalist as someone who has been indulging in irresponsible journalism.  In such a situation the support of those media organizations who are familiar with his work and who are most capable of judging the quality of his work is very important. In this context it is important that some media organization