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Supreme Court adding substance to the view: It's criminalizing dissent, says PUCL

By Our Representative

Expressed “dismay” and “disappointment” over the the Supreme Court holding Prashant Bhushan, senior advocate, guilty of criminal contempt of court for a set of tweets, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has said that the judgment will add substance to the view that, just like other democratic institutions, it too is criminalizing dissent, “acting in a manner which would silence democratic voices using the draconian power of contempt of court.”
Demanding the need for repealing the contempt law, PUCL in its statement, signed by Ravi Kiran Jain, president, and Dr V Suresh, general secretary, said, Prashant Bhushan is not the first person to raise critical questions about the administration of justice in the Supreme Court.
It recalled how on January 12, 2018, addressing media, four sitting Supreme Court judges -- Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph – declared their disagreement with the then Chief Justice of India over functioning of the judicial institution both in its administrative as also judicial sphere of functioning.
The four judges had said, “There have been instances where case having far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution had been assigned by the chief justices of this court selectively to the benches ‘of their preference’ without any rational basis for such assignment. This must be guarded against at all costs.”
Also noting that how some prominent citizens, including former judges Madan Lokur (Supreme Court) and AP Shah (former chief justice, Delhi High Court), had questioned the apex court’s reluctance to play its role to check the governmental excesses for “averting the migrant crisis during the lockdown”, PUCL regretted, it has failed to act in protecting citizens from “abuse” of anti-sedition law and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) by the Central government.
Against this backdrop, PUCL asserted, “The conviction of Prashant Bhushan for criminal contempt of court for the tweets will only reinforce the view that the Supreme Court will not allow any public questioning or criticism of its functioning and is not averse to using contempt laws to silence voices seeking transparency and accountability of the judiciary.”

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