Attorney General of India KK Venugopal has refused consent for criminal contempt proceedings against veteran activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan for his tweets in which he was critical of Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde being provided a special helicopter by the Madhya Pradesh government. Venugopal opined that contempt proceedings should not be initiated as Bhushan had apologised and expressed regret over the statement.
On October 21, Bhushan had said the CJI availed the special helicopter during his visit to Kanha national park while "an important case of disqualification of defecting MLAs of MP (Madhya Pradesh) is pending before him. Survival of MP govt depends on this case".
However, Bhushan on November 4 had regretted the error in his earlier tweet and tweeted: Elections were held yesterday to seats of defecting Cong MLAs in MP who were made ministers in the Shivraj Govt. Survival of Shivraj govt will depend on their re-election, not on decision of case in CJIs court challenging their ministership. I regret this error in my tweet below."
The consent of the topmost law officer was sought by one advocate Sunil Singh to initiate contempt proceedings against Bhushan for his October 21 tweet saying that the activist-lawyer connected "the personal life of CJI with a pending case before him.
Though Venugopal termed Bhushan's earlier tweet about the CJI as wholly unwarranted, improper, devoid of legal basis and prima facie contumacious , he declined the consent considering the regret expressed in his later tweet.
I am of the opinion that the imputations contained in three tweets to the effect that the Chief Justice of India committed an act of impropriety in accepting facilities of the state of Madhya Pradesh during his visit to Kanha National Park while a case pertaining to the disqualification of certain members of the legislative assembly of MP was pending before him were wholly unwarranted, improper , devoid of legal basis and prima facie contumacious for following reasons, Venugopal said in his response to the lawyer.
He said firstly the CJI is one of the highest constitutional functionaries in the country and is entitled to receive protocol as befits the stature of his office and the state guests are entitled to be extended appropriate security.
The top law officer said he was initially of the mind to grant the consent to initiate proceedings for criminal contempt.
However, I must bring to your attention subsequent developments he has expressed regret for the error made in his earlier tweet on October 21. He has stated publicly that it was incorrect to state that the fate of the government of Madhya Pradesh depended on the case pending before the CJI
In these circumstances, I do not think that it would be in public interest to give consent for proceedings on the basis of the original tweet in view of the subsequent tweet expressing regret. I accordingly decline consent, Venugopal said,
The Attorney General said the region CJI visited has been a Maoist affected region and that is why he was given the helicopter facility.
It is significant to note that on November 4, a bench headed by the CJI disposed of a plea that had raised the issue of pendency of disqualification proceedings against some Congress MLAs who had joined the BJP and were appointed as ministers in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh.
The top court, on August 31, had imposed a token fine of one rupee against Bhushan as punishment in the contempt case against him.
Bhushan was earlier convicted for two tweets against the judiciary