Prashant Bhushan, the lawyer-activist, has refused to apologize to the Supreme Court for his tweets criticizing the top court and Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde.
Live Law quoted the lawyer as saying that his tweets were out of a “bona fide attempt to discharge his duty as a citizen”. “I would have been failing in my duty if I did not speak up at this juncture of history. I submit to any penalty which the court may inflict. It would be contemptuous on my part to offer apology,” he said.
“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 (Supreme Court) that I hold in highest esteem,” his statement said.
The Supreme Court had on August 20, asked Bhushan to reconsider his stance and offer an apology by August 24 while hearing on the sentence to be awarded to him. Earlier, on August 14, the court had ruled that Bhushan was guilty of contempt of court and kept the matter for a decision on punishment for August 20.
At the last hearing on Thursday, the court had sought an unconditional apology and gave the 63-year-old lawyer a few days to “reconsider” his statement.
“Don’t just apply the legal brain here,” Justice Arun Kumar Mishra, who led the bench, had told Bhushan, commenting that he had not convicted anyone of contempt in 24 years as a judge.
“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,” Mr Bhushan had responded.
Bhushan had posted two tweets, one against the Supreme Court on June 27 and another against CJI Bobde on June 29.
Bhushan’s first tweet said: “When historians in the future look back at the last six years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the SC in this destruction, and more particularly the role of the last four CJIs.”
The second referred to CJI Bobde and said, “The CJI rides a Rs 50-lakh motorcycle belonging to a BJP leader at Raj Bhavan, Nagpur, without wearing a mask or helmet, at a time when he keeps the SC on lockdown mode denying citizens their fundamental right to access justice!”
Attorney General KK Venugopal, on August 20, asked the court not to punish Bhushan. The court is now expected to pronounce its order in the coming days on the sentence to be imposed on Bhushan.
Some attorneys have protested Bhushan’s conviction. Many others, along with human rights activists, opposition politicians, and journalists, have urged the court not to send him to jail.
“It is shocking,” said Lalit Bhasin, the president of the Bar Association of India, an umbrella organisation that represents thousands of lawyers. “You are scuttling the voice of the entire legal profession.”
Bhushan filed many corruption cases under previous governments, including those led by the Congress.
In recent years, he has become one of harshest critics of the ruling BJP.