Contempt case: Prashant Bhushan declines Supreme Court's offer for time to reconsider statement
By Vivek Raj | Galatta | Aug 20, 2020, 03:20 pm
Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan told the Supreme Court on Thursday that he was "pained" at being "grossly misunderstood" after he was held guilty of contempt for his tweets on the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde including the Apex Court and, stated that he considered his statements as attempts to discharge his highest duty. The Supreme Court gave him two-three days time "to reconsider" his statement during the hearing which lasted for nearly two hours.
Justice Arun Mishra said, "There is no person on Earth who cannot commit a mistake. You may do hundreds good things but that doesn't give you a license to do 10 crimes. Whatever has been done is done. But we want the person concerned to have a sense of remorse,".
The Supreme Court had rejected Prashant Bhushan's request to defer the hearing on his sentencing for contempt. He said, "I am pained to hear that I am held guilty of contempt of court. I am pained not because of the would-be sentencing, but because I am being grossly misunderstood. I believe that an open criticism is necessary to safeguard democracy and its values,".
The 63-year-old lawyer added, "My tweets need to be seen as an attempt for working for the betterment of the institution. My tweets, I consider, were discharge of my highest duty. Apologising would also be dereliction of my duty. I do not ask for mercy. I do not appeal for magnanimity. I cheerfully submit to any punishment that the court may impose,".
Prashant Bhushan responded to the top court asking him to reconsider his statement by saying, "I may reconsider it if my lordships want but there won't be any substantial change. I don't want to waste my lordships' time. I will consult my lawyer." In response, Justice Arun Kumar Mishra said, "You better reconsider it... don't just apply the legal brain here."
Referring to the contempt ruling, Justice Mishra said this was his first order as such and stated, "There is a Lakshman Rekha (boundary) for everything. Why cross it? We welcome pursuing good cases in public interest but remember, this is a serious thing. I haven't convicted anyone of contempt in 24 years as a judge. This is my first such order,". He also noted saying, "Freedom of speech is not absolute to anyone... to me... to Press. There's no problem in being an activist but we have to say this is the line."
The Supreme Court said that "no punishment will be acted upon" until a decision on review. Mr Bhushan's request for another bench to hear arguments on sentencing however was declined. "You are asking us to commit an act of impropriety that arguments on sentencing should be heard by another bench," the court said.
Two of his tweets posted on Twitter, one on June 27, in regard to the operations of the judiciary over the past six years, and another on July 22 over the Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, were the subject of the court's scrutiny. On August 3, Mr Bhushan told the court that he had regret over only a "part of" his tweets and maintained that criticism of a top judge "does not scandalise" the court or lower its authority.