- Prashant Bhushan was held guilty in contempt of court
- SC has asked him to submit an unconditional apology by 24th of August
- Prashant Bhushan said, “I am being grossly misunderstood”
Lawyer- activist Prashant Bhushan who has been held guilty in contempt of court case for his tweets on the Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and the Supreme Court of India told the top court that he was “pained” at being “grossly misunderstood” and that he considered his tweets an attempt to discharge his highest duty.
The hearing on the case to decided whether Prashant Bhushan’s tweets had crossed the line, a sharp session of back and forth arguments took place for 2 hours, now the Supreme Court has given the 63 year old laywer until 24th of August to “reconsider” his statement and submit an unconditional apology by 24th of August.
The Supreme Court said, “We have given time to the contemnor to submit unconditional apology if he so desires. Let it be filed by 24.08.2020. In case apology is submitted, the case to be posted for consideration on the same, on 25.08.2020,”.
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,”.
Prashant Bhushan also requested to defer the hearing on his sentence for the contempt but it was rejected by the top court.
Bhushan 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 the democracy and its values,”.
He added, “My tweets need to be seen as an attempt for working for the betterment of the institution. My tweets, I consider, was discharge of my highest duty. Apologising would also be a dereliction of my duty. I do not ask for mercy. I do not appeal for magnanimity. I cheerfully submit to any punishment that court may impose,”.
As the Supreme Court if India asked him to reconsider his statement, Prashant Bhushan said, “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.”
To this Justice Arun Kumar Mishra replied: “You better reconsider it… don’t just apply legal brain here.”
Justice Mishra claimed that this was his first such contempt ruling. He said, “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,”.
The judge also said, “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 top court made it clear that “no punishment will be acted upon” until a decision on review. Having said this, Bhushan’s request that another bench should hear the arguments on sentencing was rejected with the Supreme Court saying, “You are asking us to commit an act of impropriety that arguments on sentencing should be heard by other bench,”.
In one of the tweets for which Prashant Bhushan was held guilty of contempt, he had said that “four previous Chief Justices of India played a role in destroying democracy in India in the last six years”.
The other tweet accused the Chief Justice of India S A Bobde riding a superbike, he was photographed sitting on a Harley Davidson in Nagpur which was parked on its stand without a helmet and a face mask, while keeping the court in lockdown and denying citizens of the country their right to justice.
Prashant Bhushan said, on hearing of 3rd August, that regretted only some “part of” his tweets and asserted that criticism of the top judge “does not scandalise” the court or lower its authority.