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Thin line between free speech, contempt, says Supreme Court

New Delhi: Taking up the 2009 contempt of court case against lawyer Prashant Bhushan, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday that there is a thin line between free speech and contempt, adding that the issue now is how to save the system's grace and bring the matter to an end as

well.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra asked Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan, representing Bhushan, to suggest ways to resolve this

matter.

Justice Mishra told Dhavan: "Can you suggest some way to avoid this rigmarole? You can resolve it." In response, Dhavan said that Bhushan had already provided an explanation on the matter. After a brief hearing on the matter through videoconference, the hearing was turned into in-camera proceeding. But before that happened, the bench had asked Dhavan for solution to the case.

The contempt case pertains to Prashant Bhushan's comments on the judiciary during an interview to the Tehelka magazine in 2009. In the previous hearing on the matter, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Tarun Tejpal from Tehelka magazine, had submitted that since the last hearing was held in 2012 he was yet to go through the documents in the case.

In response, Justice Mishra had replied that the court would have to resume the hearing. When Sibal pleaded that he needed time to prepare, Justice Mishra said the court would give him enough time for the purpose.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Tuesday said it has not received the apology submitted by lawyer Prashant Bhushan so far and reserved the order in a 2009 contempt case against him. A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari said: "We have heard counsel for the parties at some length. Explanation/apology submitted by respondents Prashant Bhushan and Tarun Tejpal have not been received so far."

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