Advocate Prashant Bhushan on February 25, 2019, sought the recall of contempt notices issued against him by a Supreme Court Bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Navin Sinha on petitions filed by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and the Central government.
The Supreme Court on February 6, 2019, agreed to consider the larger issue of advocates making comments on a sub-judice matter and issued notice to Mr. Bhushan on contempt petitions filed for his tweets stating that the government, through Attorney General, had misled the court by submitting that the appointment of M. Nageshwar Rao as interim CBI Director had the approval of High Powered Selection Committee.
In his application, filed through Advocate Kamini Jaiswal, Mr. Bhushan stated that the Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra had no jurisdiction to entertain the contempt petitions. The petitions were mentioned before the Bench by completely “bypassing” the Chief Justice of India, who is the master of the roster. It was also stated that the consent of CJI was also not taken.
The application referred to a Constitution Bench decision in the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms v. Union of India, which had upheld the CJI’s undisputed role as the ‘master of roster’ with exclusive powers to take up cases and allocate them to Benches in the apex court. The Constitution Bench of which Justice Arun Mishra was also a member had ruled that no judge in the Supreme Court could allocate cases to themselves.
Further, it was also argued that as per the roaster arrangement only the benches headed by CJI, Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice U.U. Lalit have the jurisdiction for criminal contempt.
Besides that, Mr. Bhushan also mentioned in his application that the criminal contempt petitions are stand-alone matters and could not have been tagged with the Nageshwar Rao PIL.