New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to lawyer Prashant Bhushan on contempt petitions filed by the Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal and the Centre over tweets alleging that he had misled the court on M. Nageswara Rao's appointment as interim chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said it would address the larger issue of the extent of media discussion in cases that were sub judice.
Justice Mishra observed that the practice of making statements to the media by lawyers about cases had become common. He highlighted instances where lawyers filed cases, made adverse statements in court and finally withdrew the cases.
"When we haven't fully decided the issue and lawyers make statements to the media, it can affect the public mind and efficacy of the court," Mishra added.
Venugopal told the court that he did not want any particular punishment for Bhushan, but there should be a restriction on the extent that a lawyer could go to while making a public statement on a pending case.
The court was hearing two contempt pleas. One was brought by Venugopal over Nageswara Rao's appointment. The second plea was filed by the Centre, which claimed he had "wilfully and deliberately" made a false statement in a pending case.
The tweet in question was posted through Bhushan's account on 1 February after the court hearing. “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!" the tweet stated.
Venugopal claimed that Bhushan through his tweet had deliberately obstructed in the administration of justice and cast aspersions on his integrity. He added that he had placed the minutes of the meeting of the high-power committee before the apex court during the hearing on 1 February.
On 1 February, during arguments in the case challenging Nageswara Rao's appointment, the attorney-general had told the court that approval from the high-powered committee comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge and Supreme Court Justice AK Sikri had been obtained for Nageswara Rao to continue as interim director.