New Delhi: The Supreme Court bench led by Justice Arun Mishra today fined advocate Prashant Bhushan a symbolic Re 1 for contempt of court. The bench said he refused to apologise despite given the opportunity and also released his statement to the media, causing further publicity.
Prashant Bhushan has been asked to pay the fine by September 15, failing which he will be sentenced to three months in jail and to be barred from practicing for 3 years.
A three- judge Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B. R. Gavai and Krishna Murari had reserved its judgment on the quantum of punishment to Bhushan, after he refused to apologise.
“Duly balancing the factors urged by Dr. Dhavan as to the offender, offence, the convicting judgment and the defence taken we have to decide the question of sentence. In our considered view, the act committed by the contemnor is a very serious one. He has attempted to denigrate the reputation of the institution of administration of justice of which he himself is a part. At the cost of repetition, we have to state that the faith of the citizens of the country in the institution of justice is the foundation for rule of law which is an essential factor in the democratic set up,” said the bench of Justice Arun Mishra.
The Supreme Court held, “We, therefore, sentence the contemnor with a fine or Re.1/ (Rupee one) to be deposited with the Registry of this Court by 15.09.2020, failing which he shall undergo a simple imprisonment for a period of three months and further be debarred from practising in this Court for a period of three years.”
The Apex Court had found Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt on August 14, for his two tweets against the Chief Justice of India and the Judiciary. While one tweet his comment the current CJI SA Bobde’s picture, the second tweet was his criticism on the role of last four CJIs in India.
The Court was scheduled to determine the quantum of punishment for Bhushan on August 20th, but it decided to give Bhushan more time reconsider his statement and gave him a chance to tender an unconditional apology by August 25th. Bhushan refused to apologise and filed a supplementary statement.
He stated that his tweets represented this bonafide belief that he continues to hold and Public expression of these beliefs was, in line with his higher obligations as a citizen and a loyal officer of the court. Therefore, an apology by him for expression of these beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be insincere.
Attorney General for India, K K Venugopal, had also asked the Bench to let Bhushan off after a reprimand or a warning, rather than punishing him.
Read the judgment here;14323-2020-33-1504-23746-Judgement-31-Aug-2020
-India Legal Bureau