In October 13, 2011, public interest crusader and lawyer Prashant Bhushan was attacked inside his chamber in the high security Supreme Court complex by members of a militant Hindu fringe group for his controversial remarks on a referendum in Kashmir. He was dragged out of his chair as he gave a TV interview and repeatedly kicked and punched.

If this was shocking, what followed was surprising – except for Bhushan, perhaps. A similar attack on a lawyer would have triggered widespread protests from the Bar. The response this time around was muted. “I am quite isolated and have few good friends within the legal fraternity. It is because of my exposes in various fields. The corporate sector is also against me,” says Bhushan, who is a key member of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party.

Bhushan, by his own admission, has made enemies in powerful places in the course of his many legal battles for public causes. He has argued nearly 300 public interest litigations (PILs) and is, for all purposes, India’s Public Interest Litigant No.1 – as the major chunk of the cases target corruption in government, the judiciary and the corporate world, on social justice, environment and civil liberties. These include the 2G scam, the Radia tapes, Coalgate and iron ore mining scams, to name a few.

Environmentalist and social activist Vandana Shiva was his inspiration. She was the first one to approach him to file a PIL in 1983 – the year he began his practice – against limestone mining in the Doon valley. Civil rights violations during the emergency saw him dragged into civil liberty issues. His father, lawyer and former Union minister Shanti Bhushan had earned a name after representing Janata Party leader Raj Narain on whose petition the Allahabad High Court had set aside Indira Gandhi’s election.

“There is no one incident which motivated me to become a public interest petitioner. It was a gradual process. I was pulled into it like a whirlpool. The fight for civil liberty and rights then became a passion and there has been no looking back. Gradually those who had proof of corruption at various levels also began to approach me to file PILs,” says Bhushan.

He knows he is playing with fire. Recently his three sons, all law students at Delhi University, came to see him argue a PIL against illegal iron ore mining in Goa. They told him that many miners sitting in the court were abusing him.

“Prashant Bhushan is a fearless lawyer and argues thoroughly. His well-researched arguments have always been of great assistance,” says former Supreme Court judge, Justice A.K. Ganguly. , who was part of the bench which monitored 2G spectrum scam probe.

“Bhushan is like Jack the Giant Slayer – very steadfast and focussed in his arguments. He also takes criticism in the right spirit,” says former Delhi High Court judge, Justice R.S. Sodhi. He has been the main instrument for judicial activism by the Supreme Court in the past few years as he often kept the UPA government on tenterhooks. Read more

Courtesy: India Today
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