Soli Sorabjee, an eminent jurist and former Attorney General of India known for his balanced stance was asked in an 2016 interview about the state of freedom of expression in Bharat, to which he replied:
“who prevented the citizens from criticising the government? Those who have criticised the government have they been put in jail as was done during the Emergency? Those who returned awards, have they been penalised or faced any consequences? Even a person like Kejriwal calls the PM a ‘psychopath’, ‘coward’, ‘liar’. This is in bad taste, but nobody has taken any action against him… What intolerance is there? I can’t understand”.
The former attorney general’s statement brings to fore the widely abused fundamental right of the Indian constitution Article 19 of which clause (a) confers “freedom of speech and expression” however clause (2), as ignorantly side-lined imposes “reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said clause in the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, public order, decency or morality in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
Upon examining the full extent of clause (2) that explicitly states reasonable restrictions are imposed to maintain “public order” and “integrity of Bharat”, the words of the Constitution of India merely remain paper tiger as we see how on a daily basis it is violated by eminent personalities in media, politics, artists and activists.
A five-judge bench headed by the then CJI of India Shri S.H. Kapadia in 2012, cautioned media against crossing the “Lakshman Rekha” on reportage of sub-judice matters thereby terming freedom of speech and expression as “not an absolute”. The ruling upheld the right of accused to have a free and fair trial, enabling an apex court or High Court to give directives to media to defer broadcasting of proceedings on case-by-case basis, thereby developing a policy of postponement to balance freedom of media.
Yet, in the most recent case of senior lawyer turned activist Mr. Prashant Bhushan vilified the Supreme Court of India, the very institute he has been part of all these years.
His one of two tweets referred to CJI Bobde’s viral picture sitting atop a parked Harley Davidson motorcycle, making a careless remark at the CJI saying “CJI rides a 50 lakh motorcycle belonging to BJP leader without a mask or helmet at a time when he keeps SC in lockdown mode denying citizens their fundamental right to access Justice”.
Not only is this statement in bad taste, it casts aspersions on the functioning of the Supreme Court of India, it questions the veracity of the conduct of the Chief Justice of India, it violates decency and morality in relation to the courts of the country and rather defamatory without due diligence.
Celebrated lawyer Justice D.Y. Chandrachud (best known for his upholding of right to privacy) in an article dated 30th August 2020 stated about the Supreme Court disposing of 12 lakh cases off the 28 lakh cases lodged between March 24 and August 28, 2020, through the e-Committee channel of the Supreme Court.
While Mr. Prashant Bhushan was busy being a social bee on Twitter all through these months, the apex court of the country ever since March 23rd, two days before the national lockdown engaged with 50,475 advocates, dealt with 15,000 matters, set-up 1,021 benches and decided on as many as 4,300 cases all “through video-conferencing mode as opposed to lockdown mode”.
And while disposing off these cases the 125 members of administrative staff of the court registry, notwithstanding lack of public transport facilities, continued with their struggle of upkeep of justice and suffered contracting the virus, despite which the registry has still been functioning albeit with reduced staff members.
So, Mr. Prashant Bhushan might be opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate his Rs. 1 victory, there are un-sung heroes of the courts and the not so well-known advocates who haven’t had the privilege of being born to famous career lawyer families, who instead of castigating their supreme institution worked for the betterment of judiciary.
The definition of an advocate according to a legal blog, “most important scope of the legal ethics is to uphold the dignity and order of the law profession; to maintain a spirit of friendly collaboration between the bar and bench in furtherance of highest standard of justice; and to demonstrate a spirit of fraternity with bar”.
The blog further states, “beside being professionals, advocates are court officers who play a critical part in the administration of justice; therefore, they must handle themselves as court officers, they are expected to follow highest standards of integrity and honour. The conduct of advocates ought to reflect their honoured position in society, which originates from the profession’s nobility.”
With regard to these remarks one can say rather confidently, the demeanour of Mr. Prashant Bhushan and his choice of words reflected his mentality more as an activist-politician and less of an advocate. His functioning from the tweets below strongly point to the style of his functioning.
Per his tweet on July 13, 2020 (refer picture 1) he seemed more concerned about the state of Congress in Rajasthan rather than his concern toward the state of judiciary of which he is part of. While his second tweet on the same date regarding “misuse of govt. agencies like CBI, ED, IT, NIA” again made unscrupulous or in legal vocabulary unmaintainable charges against the judiciary of Bharat.
An average tweet (refer Picture 2) of Mr. Prashant Bhushan who supposedly is an “senior advocate” resembles that of an immature college student who thrives on anti-establishment content with hangover of a certain political family who he treats as the “first family” of Bharat, while failing to see the incredible gains made under the current regime. When such is the stance of a supposed advocate, what is the difference between him and a biased journalist.
His tweets (refer Picture 3) on July 30, 2020 reeks of selective insensitivity to religious affairs of Hindu community while he’d have chosen to stay mute on affairs of other communities. While on the August 29, 2020, he makes a very-very absurd statement terming Congress, RJD and left parties as the “saviours of democracy and combine efforts to defeat corruption”.
This very belief is ludicrous marred with bizarre logic as during regime of the UPA, massive corruption scandals looted public money i.e. CWG Games 2010, 2G spectrum, Adarsh housing scam, Coal blocks allocation scandal to name a few, while the supremo of RJD Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav was convicted in the fodder scam.
He is currently admitted to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi owing to his illness, however a PIL filed in Jharkhand High Court stated how during his stay at the institute he’s met with several political leaders causing to influence upcoming elections in Bihar.
Then, going by the logic of Prashant Bhushan, how can one be confident of his opinion or of his judicial acumen when he calls the very political parties whose leadership is currently in jail and on bail, the defenders of democracy and thinks they are capable of defeating corruption. Mr. Prashant Bhushan’s case is that of sticking to his political ideology, entertaining a certain lobby of journalists quid pro quo and blatantly violating the constitution of Bharat with a posture of confidence and seemingly getting away with it.
Mr. Prashant Bhushan is not an advocate of repute, his gains are made on social media riling up controversies. He is not a court officer; he is a media hugging online star sitting on a pedestal on par with fashion bloggers of Instagram and YouTube.
 Hindustan Times, “Strike down misuse, not sedition law: Former attorney general Sorabjee”
 Outlook, “Freedom of Expression and Speech not absolute: SC”
 Indian Express, “District courts disposed of 12 lakh cases since lockdown: Justice DY Chandrachud”
 Mid-day, “Supreme Court’s 1,021 benches heard over 15,000 cases in last 100 days during COVID-19 lockdown”
 Anubhav Pandey, “Code of ethics and conduct for advocates”
– by Laveesh Sharma
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