New Delhi: Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, held guilty of contempt for his tweets on Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and the Supreme Court, told the top court today that he was “pained” at being “grossly misunderstood” and that he considered his tweets an attempt to discharge his highest duty.
After a sharp back-and-forth over whether his tweets had crossed the line, the Supreme Court gave the 63-year-old lawyer two-three days “to reconsider” his statement. “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,” said Justice Arun Mishra.
Prashant Bhushan’s request to defer the hearing on his sentencing for contempt was rejected by the Supreme Court. “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 said.
“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 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,” he said.
The bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari told senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Bhushan, that he is asking for an act of impropriety by making submissions that the argument on sentencing in the contempt case should be heard by another bench.
Justice Gavai noted that there should not be an impression that there is an effort to avoid this bench.
To this Dave replied, why the bench was giving the impression that “this bench wants to decide everything before Justice Mishra retires”.
Dave urged that the matter of punishment should be considered by a different bench. Justice Gavai said the request cannot be accepted. Dave insisted that heavens are not going to fall if the court defer the hearing till the review is decided. “It is not necessary that this very bench should consider the sentence,” argued Dave.
The bench said it is not appropriate and it is against established procedure and norms. Justice Mishra replied: “Suppose if I am not retiring from office, can it be ever thought of?”
Justice Mishra reiterated, “We assure you; we will not do anything to defeat your right of review.”
The bench also observed that it is not inclined to hear Bhushan’s application seeking deferment of hearing on the sentence till his review petition is decided.
A contemnor can be punished with simple imprisonment of up to six months or with a fine of up to Rs 2,000 or with both. On August 14, the top court held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his derogatory tweets against the judiciary.