First Information Report dated 14.12.2000

"I, Jagdish Prasar, with colleagues Shri Umed Singh and Rajender were going out from Supreme Court at 7.00 p.m and saw that Gate No.C was closed. We came out from the Supreme Court premises from other path and inquired why the gate is close. The were surrounded by Prasant Bhusan, Medha Patekar and Arundhanti Roy alongwith their companion and they told Supreme Court your father's property. On this we told them they could not sit on Dharna by closing the gate. The proper place of Dharna is parliament. In the mean time Prastant Bhusan said."You Jagdish Prasar are the tout of judiciary. Again medha said "SALE KO JAAN SE MAAR DO (kill him). Arundhanti Roy commanded the crow that Supreme Court of India is the thief and all these are this touts. Kill them , Prasant Bhushan pulled by having caught my haired and said that if you would be seen in the Supreme Court again he would get them killed. But they were shouting inspite of the presence of S.H.O and ACP Bhaskar Tilak marg. We ran away with great with great hardship otherwise their goonda might have done some mischief because of their drunken state. Therefore, it is requested to you that proper action may be taken after registering our complaint in order to save on lives and property. We complainants will be highly obliged.

Sd. Complainants"

Comments about petition

The main petition is as patently false and shoddily drafted as this FIR. The ludicrousness of the charges displays more contempt for the Apex Court than any of the offences allegedly committed by Prashant Bhushan, Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy. The police station in Tilak Marg, where the FIR was lodged, has not registered a case. There was no police investigation, no attempt to verify the charges, to find out whether the incident described in the FIR (on which the entire contempt petition is based) occurred at all.

Under the circumstances, it is distressing that the Supreme Court has thought it fit to entertain this petition and issue notice directing the other respondents to appear personally in court on the 23rd of April 2001.

Quotes from Prashant Bhushan'S affidavit: (Respondent no. 1)

1 "The filing of such a false petition in court and then giving publicity to the false allegations contained in it is not only Perjury, Criminal defamation but also amounts to Criminal contempt of Court. This court has held in a number of cases that the filing of false affidavits in court with a view to mislead it amounts to Criminal Contempt of Court. I submit that it is the duty of the Court to proceed against the Petitioners for Perjury and Criminal Contempt".

2 "However, it appears from the contents of the petition that the real motivation of the petitioners in filing this petition against me is because I have written and spoken against the Narmada Judgement and indeed written and spoken against various other judgements of this and other courts. It is obvious from the following passages of the petition that the petitioners believe that the Court should not be subjected to criticism, especially not by a practicing lawyer, particularly one who is involved in a particular case".

3 "I have always believed and worked on the basis that a lawyer, especially one espousing pubic interest causes is fully entitled to be involved in the causes that he is espousing. In fact, I believe and have worked on the basis that a lawyer should espouse only those public interest causes that he strongly believes in and agrees with. I believe that in a public interest matter, a lawyer can and indeed should argue with his head and heart. In keeping with this principle, I have only taken up those public interest causes in court that I believe in. While doing so, I have identified myself with the causes that I have espoused in court. I have often participated in the public campaigns on such issues and have also written about them. I have not done so to influence the court, but to educate the people on the issues involved. I believe that in a Republic where the ultimate sovereign are the people, it is important for people to understand the issues involved in public interest cases, and also how the court has dealt with those so that proper public opinion is formed on those issues and so that people could understand the functioning of the Judiciary which is one of the pillars of the State".

Quotes from Medha Patkar's affidavit: (Respondent no. 2)

1 (In such circumstances) "the judgement of the Court left the NBA and indeed most independent observers and commentators stunned and angry. A very large number of independent and eminent observers, journalists and writers have written scathing articles criticizing the judgement in most trenchant terms.

2 Despite the anger at the judgement, it was decided by the Andolan to file a review petition in this court pointing out the grievous errors in the Judgement. This was done within 30 days, ......... "when the review petition was not being taken up for hearing, the members of the NBA, especially the oustees, whose lands and homes were going to be submerged this monsoon on account of the judgement of this Court decided to come to Delhi and have a dharna outside the Supreme Court. It was decided that they would try and meet the judges and explain their plight to them and even request the judges to come to the valley to see the reality for themselves. ......"I believe that in a democratic society, where the court plays such an important role in the lives of people, the court should be influenced by exposure to such reality and to the plight of the poor and the downtrodden. I do believe the court often gives judgements in ignorance of the ground realities because of lack of exposure to it. I believe that it is often necessary for the judges to make field visits themselves in order to have a proper and sensitive appreciation to the reality at the ground. The NBA always wanted the judges to visit the valley and see the condition of the oustees themselves, but that did not happen. So the people of the valley decided to come to the Court to meet the judges and explain to them what was happening in the valley. If such attempts to influence the judges in this way is considered contempt by this court, then I plead guilty".

3 The NBA representing the people in the valley and all our supporters across the country have strong faith in the Constitution and also the judiciary and its role in upholding the Constitution, and the rights granted to the citizens especially to the underprivileged and tribals. We, therefore, believe that we have a role and a duty to critique not just the economic and political decisions but also the laws and actions of the judiciary. Any judgment, that can be proved to be in violation to the Rights of the people guaranteed by the Constitution and thus unjust, we believe, needs to be analysed and criticised. This has been done time and again, by eminent persons and organisations in the past. Since the judgment of Sardar Sarovar Project is unjust, as it denies justice, rejects the plea for right to life and livelihood by not just affected by SSP, but all development projects, as a responsible citizen and concerned activist, well informed about ...... a formidable human tragedy to occur in the Narmada Valley, I decided to join hands with the tribal and peasant populations in the Narmada Valley in critiquing and rejecting the judgment.

4 I believe that in a democratic society, all persons have the right to protest and demonstrate against any action of any organ of the state, including the judiciary...I believe that I too have that right.....The only way to have some kind of accountability of the judiciary today is for the people to comment frankly and fearlessly on the actions and judgments of the Courts. If this is not going to be allowed by invoking the power of contempt against persons who comment adversely, even trenchantly against the Courts' actions and judgments, it will render the judiciary totally unaccountable and unresponsive to the needs of the people. I believe it is important for the judiciary to be accountable not just to the Law, but also to the people. I do not agree with those who say that Justice must be blind it cannot be blind to the suffering of the poor and the downtrodden.

5 I have raised the issue of mega projects, the development planning, democratic and human rights, economics and corruption of monitory and natural resources by such projects and suggested that just and sustainable alternatives in water, energy and other sectors. Most of those that I work with in the Valley are going to lose their lands, their homes, their forests, their community, their culture and indeed, their very identity because of this project. I have taken up their cause because I can feel their loss, I can identify with them they are indeed like my family. I will continue to fight for them in every forum and in every way that I can. I will continue to challenge the unjust system that deprives common people especially the natural resource based communities, who pay the cost for the benefit of those who already have much more with them. I will continue to help them raise their voices in protest, against the system even if I have to do so against the judiciary and the courts. I will continue to do so as long as I can, even if I have to be punished for contempt for doing that.

Quotes from Arundhati Roy's affidavit: (Respondent no. 3)

1 "As a consequence of the Supreme Court judgement, it is these unfortunate citizens, who stand to lose their homes, their livelihoods, their gods and their histories. When they came calling on the Supreme Court on the morning of the 13th of December 2000, they were asking the Court to restore their dignity. To accuse them of lowering the dignity of the Court suggests that the dignity of the court and the dignity of Indian citizens are incompatible, oppositional, adversarial things. That the dignity of one can only exist at the cost of the other. If this is so, it is a sad and shameful proposition"

2 "In recent months this Court has issued judgements on several major public issues. For instance, the closure of polluting industries in Delhi, the conversion of public transport buses from diesel to CNG, and the judgement permitting the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam to proceed. All of these have had far-reaching and often unanticipated impacts. They have materially affected, for better or for worse, the lives and livelihoods of millions of Indian citizens. Whatever the justice or injustice of these judgements, whatever their finer legal points, for the court to become intolerant of criticism or expressions of dissent would mark the beginning of the end of democracy".

"An 'activist' judiciary, that intervenes in public matters to provide a corrective to a corrupt, dysfunctional executive, surely has to be more, not less accountable. To a society that is already convulsed by political bankruptcy, economic distress and religious and cultural intolerance, any form of judicial intolerance will come as a crippling blow. If the judiciary removes itself from public scrutiny and accountability, and severs its links with the society that it was set up to serve in the first place, it would mean that yet another pillar of Indian democracy will crumble. A judicial dictatorship is as fearsome a prospect as a military dictatorship or any other form of totalitarian rule".

3 "On the grounds that judges of the Supreme Court were too busy, the Chief Justice of India refused to allow a sitting judge to head the judicial enquiry into the Tehelka scandal, even though it involves matters of national security and corruption in the highest places.

Yet, when it comes to an absurd, despicable, entirely unsubstantiated petition in which all the three respondents happen to be people who have publicly though in markedly different ways questioned the policies of the government and severely criticized a recent judgement of the Supreme Court, the Court displays a disturbing willingness to issue notice.

It indicates a disquieting inclination on the part of the court to silence criticism and muzzle dissent, to harass and intimidate those who disagree with it. By entertaining a petition based on an FIR that even a local police station does not see fit to act upon, the Supreme Court is doing its own reputation and credibility considerable harm.

In conclusion, I wish to reaffirm that as a writer I have the right to state my opinions and beliefs. As a free citizen of India I have the right to be part of any peaceful dharna, demonstration or protest march. I have the right to criticize any judgement of any court that I believe to be unjust. I have the right to make common cause with those I agree with. I hope that each time I exercise these rights I will not dragged to court on false charges and forced to explain my actions".