Suo Motu cognizance of contempt of Supreme Court should be as per the guidelines set in P.N. Duda’s case and that procedure is followed

Suo Motu cognizance of contempt of Supreme Court should be as per the guidelines set in P.N. Duda’s case and this procedure is followed by us.

    -    Three Judge Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra during the hearing in         Adv. Prashant Bhushan’s case on 05.08.2020

This stand of Larger Bench of Supreme Court has overruled the judgment delivered by the smaller Bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta on 27.04.2020 in Re: Vijay Kurle and others, since said smaller Bench had taken a view that the guidelines in P.N. Duda were not binding but an obiter!

Also the Larger Bench headed by Justice Mishra stated that since one of the allegedly contemptuous tweets by Adv. Prashant Bhushan was directed at the Chief Justice of India, the latter had recused himself from the process of taking cognizance and the matter was placed before the second senior most Judge Shri N.V.Ramana.

This has proved that the bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta has erred in taking a view that the cognizance by Justice Rohinton Nariman in a complaint related to himself and his father Adv. Fali Nariman was not illegal.

 New Delhi :- (06.08.2020) : The Supreme Court has reserved its order in the suo motu contempt case initiated against Advocate Prashant Bhushan for allegedly bringing disrepute to the institution through two of his tweets.

The Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai, and Krishna Murari heard the matter at length before reserving its order.

Adv. Dushyant Dave, who appeared for Adv. Prashant Bhushan today, stated that the initiation of contempt proceedings in disregard of the established procedure amounts to violation of the right to personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution. Before initiating  proceedings, AG must give consent to the same. In this case, the AG was asked to assist the court after Suo Motu Cognizance was taken.

Dave further said, "Suo motu means that your lordships should take it up on their own. Not that an Advocate (Advocate Mehek Maheshwari) moves a plea and you take it up". "What's the point of asking AG to be here when your lordships have recorded prima facie findings?", he asked. Further, it was contended that the Secretary-General committed illegality by placing the complaint directly before the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, as the 'Master of the Roster' is the Chief Justice of India.

Dave stated that the complaint filed by one Advocate Mahek Maheshwari, which sought contempt action against Bhushan, was defective as it was not accompanied with the sanction of the Attorney General as mandated by Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971 and Rule 3(c) of the Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of the Supreme Court 1975. Without AG's permission, the petition could not have been placed before the present bench on the administrative side. He further said,  Your lordships must take suo motu cognizance on your own, not whensomeone brings it to you like this.


Justice Arun Mishra replying to the above said that, if the cognizance  was taken of the complaint, then it cannot be a suo moto but in this case the Court has taken the cognizance of  contempt case suo moto and not on the basis of the complaint. Justice Mishra added that the issue was already settled by the precedent P N Duda vs P Shiv Shanker, (1988) 3 SCC 167, holding that consent of the AG was not required for the Court to set off contempt action suo moto.

The second crucial part of the hearing was on the issue regarding the requirement of placing  the matter before Chief Justice of India as per P. N. Duda’s guidelines. To which Justice Mishra replied that, since Chief Justice of India himself is a party concerned to the tweet, therefore he has recused himself and the decision for taking cognizance on administrative side was taken by the second seniormost Judge i.e. Justice Ramanna.

It can be seen from the record that in Re: Vijay Kurle,  the smaller Bench of  Justice Rohinton Nariman had acted against the binding guidelines and by taking  cognizance of complaint, without the consent of Attorney General and against guidelines given in P. N. Duda’s case.  When the said illegality was objected , the  smaller Bench of Justice Gupta  has taken a wrong view that the precedent of  P. N. Duda’s case are not binding.

The order dated 02.09.2019, ( 2019 SCC ONLINE SC )reads as under;

“4. .. This contempt was registered basically on the joint complaint filed by the President of the Bombay Bar Association and the President of the Bombay Incorporated Law Society. In this complaint reference has been made to a communication (sent by respondents no. 1 and 2) and the allegation against respondents no. 3 and 4 is that they have acted in tandem with respondents no. 1 and 2. …”


The order dated 09.12.2019, ( 2019 SCC ONLINE SC )reads as under;

 “ 1. Repeated discharge applications have been filed by the alleged contemnors raising many grounds. At this stage we are not deciding the said applications, but we may make it clear that the order of this court dated 27.3.2019 not only makes reference to the communication sent by the President of the Bombay Bar Association and the President of the Bombay Incorporated Law Society, but specific reference has also been made to two communications-Annexure 1 and Annexure 2; the first being a letter sent by the Indian Bar Association, and the second sent by the Human Rights Security Council. …….

2. We clarify our order dated 2.9.2019, that though contempt may have been initiated on the complaint of the President of the Bombay Bar Association and the President of the Bombay Incorporated Law Society, it relates to scandalous allegations made against 2 Judges of this Court as reflected in order dated 27.3.2019. ”


The order dated 27.04.2020, ( 2020 SCC ONLINE SC )reads as under;

   16. Relying upon the aforesaid observations in the judgment delivered by Justice Ranganathan  (P N Duda vs P Shiv Shanker, (1988) 3 SCC 167) it is submitted that the petition could not have been placed for admission on the judicial side but should have been placed before the Chief Justice and not before any other Bench. We are not at all in agreement with the submission. What Justice Ranganathan observed is an obiter and not the finding of the Bench and this is not the procedure prescribed under the Rules of this Court. ”


38. Strong reliance is placed by the alleged contemnors on the judgment of Justice Ranganathan in P.N. Duda's case (supra) that the practice being followed by the Delhi High Court should be followed in this Court also. We are unable to accept this contention and find no merit in the same. As already observed above, those observations were in the nature of obiter and the said observations cannot override the statutory rules. ”


Hence it is clear that the the view taken by the two Judge Bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta is a wrong view and stand impliedly overruled. The conviction and sentence of Vijay Kurle and others is vitiated.

Full Bench of the Supreme Court had set aside the conviction of Bal Thackrey in (2005) 1SCC 254. It is ruled that;

23. In these matters, the question is not about compliance or non- compliance of the principles of natural justice by granting adequate opportunity to the appellant but is about compliance of the mandatory requirements of Section 15 of the Act.

..          In absence of compliance of mandatory requirement of Section 15, the petitions were not maintainable.

24.          For the foregoing reasons we set aside the impugned judgment and allow the appeals. Fine, if deposited by the appellant shall be refunded to him. ”

             From the view expressed by the Bench, it is once again clear that the guidelines of the Supreme Court as laid down in P. N. Duda’s case are binding and are followed in all cases. The only exception being the   judgment of Justice Nariman and Justice  Deepak Gupta.

Said wrong view taken by the two Judge Bench in Re: Vijay Kurle’s case is now impliedly overruled.

              The procedure adopted by the three Judge Bench in Re: Prashant Bhushan, is also sufficient to hold for the implied overruling of the view taken by the two Judge Bench where it was said that the Judge against whom the allegations are made, can take the cognizance of contempt and it does not amount to Judge in his own case. Justice Rohinton Nariman took the cognizance of a complaint in which he himself and his father Adv. Fali Nariman are party.

In Re: C.S. Karnan  (2017) 7  SCC 1, it is ruled as under;

“55....................................... Unfortunately the contemnor (Justice C. S. Karnan) appears to be oblivious of one of the fundamental principles of law that a complainant/informant cannot be a judge in his own complaint.The contemnor on more than one occasion "passed orders purporting to be in exercise of his judicial functions" commanding various authorities of the states to take legal action against various judges of the Madras High Court on the basis of the allegations made by him from time to time.

56. Whether all the above-mentioned conduct amounts to either "proved misbehavior" or "incapacity" within the meaning of Article 124(4) read with Article 217(1)(b) of the Constitution of India warranting the impeachment of the contemnor is a matter which requires a very critical examination. If the contemnor is unable to prove the various allegations made against judges of the Madras High Court, what legal consequences would follow from such failure also requires an examination. Probably, the contemnor would be amenable for action in accordance with law for defamation, both civil and criminal apart from any other legal consequences.”

The other crucial arguments of Adv. Dushyant Dave were heard at length and the case is reserved for order.