Prashant Bhushan moves SC, seeks right to appeal in contempt conviction, hearing by a larger, different bench

Prashant Bhushan moves SC, seeks right to appeal in contempt conviction, hearing by a larger, different bench

Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, convicted and awarded one rupee fine for his contemptuous tweets against the judiciary, on Saturday moved the Supreme Court seeking the right of appeal against convictions in original criminal contempt cases to be heard by a larger and a different bench.

Bhushan on August 31 was directed to deposit the fine with the Supreme Court registry by September 15 and failure to comply would entail a three-month jail term and debarment from law practice for three years.

In a fresh plea filed through lawyer Kamini Jaiswal, he has sought a declaration that a “person convicted for criminal contempt by this court, including the petitioner herein, would have a right to an intra-court appeal to be heard by a larger and different bench”.

Bhushan, in the plea, suggested procedural changes to reduce the chances of “arbitrary, vengeful and high-handed decisions” in criminal contempt cases saying that in such cases the top court is the aggrieved party, the “prosecutor, the witness and the judge” and hence they raise fear of inherent bias.

“As a judge the power of the Supreme Court to convict and sentence the accused is unlimited and arbitrary… No one can be at once a suitor and a judge. Thus, there is a need for an intra-court appeal,” it said. It said that the contempt proceedings are “quasi-criminal in nature, akin to a criminal trial” and thus, similar procedural safeguards must apply as in criminal trials.

Besides the contempt case lodged for his tweets, Bhushan is facing another contempt case of 2009.

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