"Attempt To Silence": Over 100 Activists Condemn Contempt Notice Against Prashant Bhushan
On February 6, the Supreme Court had issued contempt notice against Activist-Lawyer Prashant Bhushan on the contempt pleas by the Attorney General (AG) KK Venugopal and the Centre. These contempt pleas were filed over Bhushan’s tweets criticising the appointment of M Nageshwar Rao as the interim director of CBI.
Over 100 activists, academics and former civil servants have now released a joint statement expressing “deep anguish” over the filing of the contempt petition against Bhushan.
“A clear attempt to intimidate”
The joint statement is signed by activists Aruna Roy, Wajahat Habibullah, Medha Patkar, Shailesh Gandhi, Syed Hameed, among others. The statement says, “We see this as a clear attempt to intimidate and silence one of the leading advocates in the country, who unflinchingly takes up issues of corruption and abuse of power and has relentlessly supported the struggles of the vulnerable and marginalized.”
The statement mentioned that the Central government had, without the approval of the high powered selection committee, appointed Rao as the interim director. The decision was quashed by the Supreme Court in January 2019, as it was against the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, however, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) issued an order again appointing Rao to the post, saying that it was being done “as per earlier arrangement”. It did not indicate that there was approval from the selection committee, the joint statement says.
The signatories said that “Transparency is a pre-requisite to instil public confidence and faith in democratic institutions”. They further added that the given circumstances showed that doubts have arisen, however, expressing any such apprehension “that the government might be misleading the SC is alleged to be contempt of court.”
— Anjali Bhardwaj (@AnjaliB_) February 18, 2019
Contempt plea against Prashant Bhushan
A petition was filed by Prashant Bhushan-led NGO Common Cause, along with RTI activist Anjali Bharadwaj in January, asking for quashing the appointment of Rao as interim CBI director. The petitioners said that the government attempted to suppress the independence of the investigative agency by appointing Rao in an “arbitrary and illegal manner”.
Bhushan also took to Twitter criticising that the Centre represented by AG misled the apex court on Rao’s appointment. The Centre moved the SC seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against Bhushan for his tweets. The Centre alleged that the tweets amounted to making false statements in a case which was pending, as reported by The Wire.
Earlier, KK Venugopal had filed a contempt petition against Bhushan. His petition referred to his February 1 tweet.
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! https://t.co/MbEC5YLjkD
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) February 1, 2019