In the contempt case taken by the Hon’ble Supreme Court against Advocate Prashant Bhushan for his two tweets, a division bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra on 31.08.2020 sentenced him to pay a fine of Rs. 1/- (Rupee One Only), which is to be deposited with the Supreme Court Registry by 15.09.2020.
On 25.08.2020, the Division Bench comprising of Justices Arun Mishra, B. R. 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.
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 Apex Court, Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan had urged the Apex Court not to make Bhushan a martyr by imprisoning him.
Advocate Dhavan, who was representing Bhushan, had urged the Apex Court instead to send out a general message and not punish Bhushan. Attorney General K. K. 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. Advocate General 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.
The Supreme Court, however, pointed out to AG Venugopal that Bhushan did not express regret, but instead chose to reiterate his position of not apologising for the contentious tweets. In a candid dialogue that followed between the Bench and the lawyers present at the hearing, the Court expressed the “hurt” and the “pain” caused to the institution when such allegations are made.
On 14.08.2020, the Supreme Court had found Prashant Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt of Court for two tweets criticising the judiciary.
The Apex Court in the present judgement stated that it not only gave an opportunity for him to apologize but also “directly and indirectly, persuaded the contemnor to express regret”. This was not heeded to by the contemnor and he gave wide publicity to his statements and gave media interviews, which further brought down the dignity of the Court, the bench observed.
The Court further deprecated Bhushan for publicizing his statements in media before they were considered by the bench.
Observing that the act of Bhushan is “a very serious one”, the bench held as follows, “If we do not take cognizance of such conduct it will give a wrong message to the lawyers and litigants throughout the country. However, by showing magnanimity, instead of imposing any severe punishment, we are sentencing the contemnor with a nominal fine of Rs 1 instead”.
The Supreme Court bench also said that it has taken into account the advice given by the Attorney General to not punish Bhushan.
His conduct reflects adamance and ego, which has no place to exist in the system of administration of justice and in noble profession, and no remorse is shown for the harm done to the institution to which he belongs”, the bench further said.
Supreme Court also observed that it was “not afraid of sentencing the contemnor either with imprisonment or from debarring him from the practice”.
“At the same time, we cannot retaliate merely because the contemnor has made a statement that he is neither invoking the magnanimity or the mercy of this Court and he is ready to submit to the penalty that can be lawfully be inflicted upon him for what the Court has determined to be an offence”, the bench stated.