The writ petition filed by N Ram (former Editor and Managing Director of 'The Hindu'), Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, and Arun Shourie, former Union Minister, challenging the constitutionality of the offence of 'scandalizing the court' under Section 2(c)(i) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, is now seen listed before a three judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra.
The bench, also comprising of Justices BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, may hear the case on 13th August as per the case status report in Supreme Court website.
Deleted From Justice Chandrachud Led Bench
Earlier the case was listed before the bench headed by Justice Chandrachud on August 10 as per the advance cause list published on August 6. In a dramatic development, the petition was removed from the bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and K M Joseph. The unofficial explanation is that the listing of the case before the bench of Justice Chandrachud was a mistake. "As per the practice and procedure in use, the said matter should have been listed before the Bench which is already seized with a similar matter, but it has been listed by ignoring established practise and procedure. In this regard, explanations of concerned officials have been called", the reports said.
SC Registry said that the writ petition had sought a stay of the contempt proceedings pending before the bench led by Justice Arun Mishra and as a coordinate bench cannot stay proceedings pending before another bench, the petitions should have been listed before the same bench.
Justice Mishra Led Bench Hearing Two Contempt Cases Against Bhushan
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra is considering two contempt cases against Prashant Bhushan. One is an 11-year old case over his remarks in 2009 to an interview in Tehelka magazine that at least half of the 16 CJIs were corrupt. Today, Justice Arun Mishra led bench decided to hold a detailed hearing on whether to accept the explanation tendered by him. Another is a suo moto case taken two weeks back over two of his tweets about CJI and Supreme Court. The bench had reserved the case for orders.
Last week, Justice Mishra led bench had also dismissed the writ petition filed by Bhushan against Secretary General of SC alleging procedural irregularities in accepting the contempt petition without the sanction of Attorney General.
Petition challenging Constitutional Validity Of 'Scandalizing the Court' Offence
The writ petition filed by the trio under Article 32 of the Constitution challenges the provisions as being violative of fundamental right to free speech under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, as being vague and subjective, and also as being manifestly arbitrary. The petitioners argue that the provision fails the test of over-breadth, abridges the right to free speech and expression in the absence of "real and tangible" harm, and creates a "chilling effect" on the free speech and expression. The provision is also challenged on the ground of "manifest arbitrariness", on the basis of principles laid down by the SC in Shayara Bano (Triple Talaq case) and Navtej Johar (decriminalization of homosexuality).
The petition states that one of the petitioner, N Ram had to face a criminal contempt proceedings in Kerala High Court over a publication of court proceedings in Kollam Liquor tragedy case, which was later closed. Shourie had to face contempt proceedings over an editorial written about the functioning of Justice Kuldeep Singh Commission. In 2014, the SC held that the publication did not amount to contempt, accepting the defence of truth raised by him (Subramanian Swamy v Arun Shourie (2014) 12 SCC 344).