Contempt case: Prashant Bhushan files fresh plea in Supreme Court seeking review of punishment

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October 01, 2020 3:01 PM

Bhushan, who has already deposited Re 1 as fine with the apex court's registry on September 14, has filed two separate review petitions in the contempt case.

Though Venugopal termed Bhushan's earlier tweet about the CJI as wholly unwarranted, improper, devoid of legal basis and prima facie contumacious, he declined the consent considering the regret expressed in his later tweet.

Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan moved the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking review of the August 31 sentencing order to either pay nominal fine of Re 1 or face a three-month jail term and debarment from law practice for three years in the contempt case for his two tweets against the judiciary.

Bhushan, who has already deposited Re 1 as fine with the apex court’s registry on September 14, has filed two separate review petitions in the contempt case. The first review plea on September 14 had challenged the August 14 verdict convicting him for the contempt of court, while the second plea has been filed against the August 31 sentencing order which imposed the fine.

In the second review plea, filed through lawyer Kamini Jaiswal, Bhushan has sought an oral hearing in an open court on the matter. He has also sought recall of the impugned judgment and a fresh hearing, and said that the questions of law raised by him should be referred to a larger bench of appropriate strength.

The plea said Bhushan was not supplied with the copy of the contempt petition filed by a lawyer on which the apex court had taken cognisance. Referring to an apex court judgement, the review plea said the court never indicated to Bhushan that it was contemplating barring from practicing as a lawyer.

”At no point during the judicial proceedings in this matter did this court even slightly indicate that it was contemplating disbarring the Petitioner-Advocate herein from appearing before this court. ”However, without any prior notice, the impugned order imposed on the petitioner a sentence in the alternative disbarring him from appearing before this court for a period of three years which is per incuriam as per the law laid down by a coordinate three judge bench in R K Anand vs Delhi High Court case..,” the plea said.

The rules of natural justice, therefore, demand that before passing an order debarring an advocate from appearing in courts he must be clearly told that his alleged conduct or actions are such that if found guilty he might be debarred from appearing in courts for a specific period, it said.

Besides, Bhushan was denied an opportunity to file a fresh affidavit in case the court was not satisfied by his preliminary reply. He said that his second tweet regarding the judiciary in the last six years was not part of the contempt petition and was a separate issue altogether and should have been placed before the Chief Justice Of India for appropriate directions in the face of settled law.

”The petitioner was further denied an opportunity to lead evidence under Section 17(5) of Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, to substantiate averments in his preliminary reply,” the plea said. On August 14, the top court had held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his two derogatory tweets against the judiciary saying they cannot be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary made in the public interest.

Holding that Bhushan attempted to scandalise the entire institution of the Supreme Court, the top court had said, ”If such an attack is not dealt with, with requisite degree of firmness, it may affect the national honour and prestige in the comity of nations”.

The top court had analysed the two tweets of Bhushan posted on the micro-blogging site Twitter on June 27 on the functioning of judiciary in past six years, and on July 22 with regard to Chief Justice of India S A Bobde.

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