Supreme Court lets off Prashant Bhushan with fine of Re 1 in contempt case

Supreme Court 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.

FP Staff August 31, 2020 15:11:41 IST
Supreme Court lets off Prashant Bhushan with fine of Re 1 in contempt case

The Supreme Court fined lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan a token fine of Re 1 in the contempt case against him for his tweets criticising the judiciary. "Judges are not supposed to go to the press, their comments outside the Court should not have been relied on," the Bench said.

Calling Bhushan's statements an attempt to influence court proceedings, the Supreme Court Bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra asked him to submit the fine by 15 September, failing which he will be may be sent to prison for three months and be debarred from practicing law for three years, Bar and Bench reported.

Justice Mishra noted that Supreme Court precedents require an in-house procedure to be adopted for complaints of corruption against judges, adding that court decisions cannot be influenced by opinions in the media.

The Bench went on to note that it had given 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. "Court's decision should not be preempted by publication of opinions in the press," the bench noted.

On 14 August, the Constitution Bench had held Bhushan guilty over two tweets posted on 29 June and had convicted him for contempt of court. The court heard arguments for sentencing on 20 August and reserved its judgement on 25 August.

The court gave Bhushan time till 24 August to “submit an unconditional apology” for the "disparaging remarks against the institution and the judges". In response, the activist-lawyer issued a supplementary statement that the tweets represented his “bonafide beliefs” and apologising for them would be “insincere”. He refused to tender an apology or reconsider his statement.

The Bench assembled again on 25 August to consider the supplementary statement. While reserving its judgement that day it expressed anguish over Bhushan’s criticism of sitting and retired judges. While welcoming criticism, the Bench had said that one should not “attribute motives to judges”, since they can “only speak through judgements”.

Attorney General KK Venugopal had urged the Court to let Bhushan off with a reprimand. He had also pointed out the work done by him in the field of public interest litigations. Meanwhile, senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, who argued for Bhushan, urged the Court to show “judicial statesmanship” and "not make him a martyr" by sending him to prison. Dhavan had argued that a statesman-like message should be sent, like "Mr Bhushan though we disagree with many things, but from next time you should be more responsible".

Bhushan faces simple imprisonment of up to six months or with a fine of up to Rs 2,000 or with both as punishment under Contempt of Court Act.

Justice Mishra is demitting office on 2 September.

Supreme Court lets off Prashant Bhushan with fine of Re 1 in contempt case

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