The SC also referred to the unprecedented press conference by its four rebel judges on January 12, 2018, which Bhushan had cited to argue that even judges had gone public with their criticism of the court.
The Supreme Court on Monday imposed a token fine of Re 1 on activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan as a punishment in the contempt case for his derogatory tweets against the judiciary, including one on Chief Justice SA Bobde astride a heavy bike.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra asked Bhushan to deposit the fine by September 15, failing which he will attract a jail term of three months and debarment from law practice for three years. “Though a fair criticism of judgment is permissible in law, a person cannot exceed the right… Right to fair criticism is contrasted against acting in malice or attempting to bring down the reputation of the institution of administration of justice,” said the bench.
Soon after the judgment, Bhushan tweeted his photograph holding a `1 coin. He also tweeted that “my lawyer and senior colleague Rajiv Dhavan contributed 1 Re immediately after the contempt judgement today which I gratefully accepted.”
He also held a press conference later in the day, saying he proposed “to submit to the order and respectfully pay the fine.”
The court said: “…the act committed by the contemnor (Bhushan) 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,” the SC said in its 82-page order. “We gave several opportunities and encouragement to (Bhushan) to express regret. He not only gave wide publicity to the second statement but also gave various interviews to press, thereby further attempting to bring down the reputation of this Court,” the judges said while referring to Bhushan’s statement refusing to retract his comments or apologise.
Bhushan, who was held guilty of contempt on August 14, had quoted Mahatma Gandhi to say that he neither asked for mercy nor magnanimity and would cheerfully accept whatever punishment the court deemed him fit.
The SC also referred to the unprecedented press conference by its four rebel judges on January 12, 2018, which Bhushan had cited to argue that even judges had gone public with their criticism of the court. “We hope it was the first and the last occasion that judges have gone to the press, and God gives wisdom to protect its dignity by an internal mechanism. Particularly when allegations made, if any, publicly cannot be met by sufferer judges,” the judgment stated.