ICJ expresses concern over Prashant Bhushan’s Case, Says it would have a “chilling effect” on the expression of Freedom of Expression

    The International Commission of Jurists has expressed its concern over the verdict of the Supreme Court of India on August 31, in the case of Criminal Contempt of Court against Lawyer and Activist Prashant Bhushan. It has joined 1800 lawyers for calling the Supreme Court to survey the benchmarks of Criminal Contempt of Court.

    Referring to the judgements of the Apex Court on August 31, the commission considered the decisions of the court as conflicting with the international scope of Freedom of Speech. The commission also stated that the verdict of the court shall have a “chilling effect” on the exercise of the Freedom of expression in India. Particularly, the ICJ has also expressed their concern that such decisions show up to be inconsistent and conflicting with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19, ICCPR) to which India is a signatory.

    The statement said, While the Court only imposed a symbolic fine of one rupee, rather than imprisonment, the ICJ considers that the conviction appears to be inconsistent with international standards on freedom of expression and the role of lawyers…” It further stated, “While some restrictions of freedom of expression are permitted by international standards, a particularly wide scope must be preserved for debate and discussion about such matters as the role of the judiciary, access to justice, and democracy, by members of the public, including through public commentary on the courts”

    Prashant Bhushan was held guilty of contempt of court for his derogatory tweets against the Judiciary. He was imposed with a fine of Re. 1 by the Supreme Court on August 31.