On Tuesday (October 13, 2020), Attorney General K K Venugopal said that the statements openly made on print and electronic media on pending issues in an effort to influence the judges and the public opinion are causing the institution great harm.
In pending cases, the top law officer expressed serious concern about media trials, while putting his arguments before a bench chaired by Justice A M Khanwilkar in a 2009 contempt case against lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
He said, "Today, as I watch TV, I see remarks based on statements made to the police on the bail application. Another pattern, for example, in a case such as Rafale, on the day the bench takes up the case, there is an article reporting on the case".
Venugopal submitted before the court that the issue needs to be addressed. For his part, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Bhushan, said the question of sub-judice was already covered by the Constitution bench's Sahara judgment (2012). He said that taking up the problems would broaden the cause.
Dhavan also pointed out that 10 legal questions were proposed by the petitioner and that three were framed for adjudication by the bench.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was editor of Tehelka magazines at the time, Tarun Tejpal, said the issue needs to be seen in the light of the modern communication systems.
Venugopal said he would discuss the questions with Dhavan and Sibal and other parties, for determination by the court.
On September 10, the top court sought assistance from Venugopal in the contempt case, resulting from an interview with Bhushan's Tehelka magazine accusing half of India's 16 retired Chief Justices of corruption.
On August 31, after having found him guilty of suo motu criminal contempt in a separate case on August 14 for his tweets, the high court levied a nominal fine on Bhushan as a sentence on Re one.
Among the questions framed for consideration in the 2009 case are what procedure should be adopted if statements are made in public alleging corruption in sitting and retired judges.