Why did the court reject Bhushan’s arguments?
One of his tweets was about the role of the last four Chief Justices of India, and the other about the current CJI riding an expensive motorcycle while the court was in “lockdown”. While Bhushan later expressed some regret, the Bench on Friday held that the latter tweet was not against the CJI in his individual capacity but as the head of the judiciary.
The Bench took exception to the “lockdown” remark and said that from March 23 to August 4, its various Benches had 879 sittings and heard 12,748 matters. It noted that Bhushan himself not only appeared as a lawyer during this period but also challenged the FIR against him. The court refused to accept his tweet as written out of anguish.
As to the other tweet, the court held it tends to give an impression that the highest constitutional court of the country has in the last six years played a vital role in the destruction of Indian democracy. “There is no matter of doubt, that the tweet tends to shake the public confidence in the institution of judiciary… 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,” it Bench said. The key word ‘vital’ was not in the original tweet, but is mentioned in Para 71 of the judgment.
It rejected the argument that the tweet was only a matter of opinion, although several experts including former Supreme Court judges have said or written similar things. On January 11, 2018, the four then senior-most judges of the Supreme Court had held a press conference to say that the “credibility of the highest judiciary is at stake”. They asserted that democracy would not survive as an independent judiciary is the hallmark of successful democracy. The Supreme Court had tolerated such a strong indictment of itself, and then CJI Justice Dipak Mishra. Now, it has chosen not to ignore tweets by a lawyer-activist. It said magnanimity cannot be stretched to such an extent that may amount to weakness in dealing with a malicious, scurrilous, calculated attack on the very foundation of the institution of judiciary and thereby damaging the very foundation of the democracy.