Prashant Bhushan, noted Supreme Court lawyer and human rights activist, interviewed by Krishnadas Rajagopal (The Hindu)
If you have not said anything wrong and if you fully believe in what you have said, then your ego should be such, your self-righteousness should be such that you don’t cave in just because they are offering you an easy way out, says the civil rights lawyer.
Civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan was punished for criminal contempt by scandalising the Supreme Court. The court punished him with a 1 fine. He was also criticised by the court for not apologising. The court blamed his “adamance and ego” for that. But Mr. Bhushan told The Hindu on Friday that “self-righteous ego is a must for any self-respecting, truth-loving person”.
(Edited excerpts of the phone interview).
* You said criticism, and harsh criticism at that, protects the court. The court said criticism should be “fair” and not cross the Lakshman Rekha. Is this the court asking critics to self-censor or is it the court appealing to their better judgment when they speak in public?
They are doing both. When I said that the court should be willing to suffer even intemperate criticism, I did not mean that people should level intemperate criticism. What I said is even if criticism is intemperate or unfair and bordering on scurrilous and abusive, it will be understood for what it is by the people. People can make out that this criticism is scurrilous and unfair. The court’s reputation depends on their judgments and actions. It is not dependent on what people say.
The court’s reputation is affected by what people say only if it seems to have a ring of fairness and authenticity. Trying to use the law of scandalising and lowering the authority by way of contempt to stifle criticism just because some of it may be scurrilous or totally unfair is counterproductive and especially dangerous because it ends up stifling honest opinion. It was my, and remains my bona fide opinion, about the role of court in the last few years. Somebody may agree with it or not, but that does not make it contempt. I am not saying the whole of contempt law should go, but the scandalising of court should go.
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Image Courtesy: The Hindu/ Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
The Hindu, 6 September, 2020, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/interview-with-civil-rights-lawyer-prashant-bhushan-by-krishnadas-rajagopal/article32534410.ece?homepage=true