The Supreme Court sentenced Advocate Prashant Bhushan to a token fine of Re. 1 in the contempt case against him for his tweets criticising the judiciary.
On August 25, the Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari reserved its orders on Bhushan’s sentencing after finding him guilty of contempt of court for his tweets on the judiciary.
The 63-year-old had refused to retract his comments or apologise, maintaining that it would be contempt of his conscience and the court. His lawyer has argued that that the court must and should take extreme criticism as its “shoulders are broad enough”.
While pronouncing the verdict, Justice Mishra said,
“Judges are not supposed to go to the press, their comments outside the Court should not have been relied on.”
The Bench went on to note that it had given Prashant Bhushan several opportunities to express regret for making his contemptuous statements. It also stated that Bhushan gave publicity to the events surrounding the contempt case by going to the press.
However, the Bench ultimately saw it fit to impose a token fine of Re. 1 on Prashant Bhushan.
The Bench made it clear that if Bhushan defaults on payment of the fine, he may be sent to prison for three months and may be debarred from practicing for three years.
Bhushan had filed a supplementary statement reiterating his position to stand by his tweets, and had refused to apologise. When this supplementary statement was considered by the Court, Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan had urged the Court not to make Bhushan a martyr by imprisoning him.
Dhavan, who wasrepresenting Bhushan, had urged the Court instead to send out a general message and not punish Bhushan. Attorney General KK Venugopal, on the other hand, proposed that Bhushan be let off with a warning,
Dhavan argued that when a person is indicted for contempt, he has a right to present a defence and that an apology cannot be coerced from a contemnor. AG Venugopal, on the other hand, had requested the Court to let Bhushan off suggesting that Bhushan may express regret and withdraw the affidavit that was filed by him in his defence.