Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, found guilty of contempt of court for his tweets criticising the judiciary and the Chief Justice of India, was imposed a fine of Re 1 by the Supreme Court on Monday (August 31).
A bench of justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari asked Bhushan to pay the fine by September 15, failing which he will be barred from practising law for three years or face three months imprisonment.
Bhushan, 63, has repeatedly refused to apologise for his tweets, saying they were out of a “bona fide attempt to discharge his duty as a citizen” and that it’d be “contemptuous” on his part to offer an apology.
The Supreme Court had on August 25 concluded hearing and reserved its judgment in the suo moto criminal contempt case.
Here’s all that you need to know about the case:
- The issue pertains to two tweets by Prashant Bhushan; in one of the tweets, he had commented on CJI SA Bobde for riding an expensive motorcycle and in another, he had targetted the “last 4 CJIs” for the “destruction” of the democracy.
- The Supreme Court had on July 22 issued a notice to Mr. Bhushan, saying that the tweets are “capable of undermining the dignity and authority of the Institution of Supreme Court in general and the office of the Chief Justice of India in particular.”
- The lawyer was found guilty on August 14. The court had asked him to tender an apology, however, he had refused.
- “An apology has to be sincerely made. If I retract a statement that I otherwise believe to be true or offer an insincere apology that in my eyes would amount to contempt of my conscience and of an institution that I hold in highest esteem,” Bhushan had said.
- Justice Arun Mishra had asked: “If you are hurting someone, then what is wrong in apologising? For how long will the system suffer all this? I am retiring in a few days. Will it be okay if you or others start attacking me? You should apply balm if you have caused hurt.”
- Mr. Bhushan’s counsel Rajeev Dhavan had told the court that it must take criticism “and not just criticism but extreme criticism. Your shoulders are broad enough.” An apology cannot be coerced, he further argued.
- Attorney General KK Venugopal had requested the court to let Bhushan goes with a warning. He had suggested that the lawyer be reprimanded but Dhavan disagreed and said, “Such reprimand or bald warning shouldn’t be done. One cannot be silenced forever.”
- “Don’t make him a martyr; he has not committed murder or theft,” Dhavan had told the court. “Not only the Bhushan contempt case be closed, but the controversy should also be put to an end. The Supreme Court should give statesman-like messages,” he had said.
- In the contempt case, the Supreme Court may sentence Bhushan to six months in jail or impose a ₹2,000 fine, or both, as deemed fit by the three-judge bench.
- Bhusan is facing another contempt case for stating in an interview with the Tehelka magazine in 2009 that half of the 16 judges in the Supreme Court were corrupt.