Prashant Bhushan case: SC reserves judgment, AG seeks lenient view

By: |
August 26, 2020 1:15 AM

The apex court on Tuesday again took a 30-minute break from the hearing to allow Bhushan to think on withdrawing his Monday’s 100-page statement in which he refused to apologise.

The top court said it had expected a different statement from Bhushan.The top court said it had expected a different statement from Bhushan.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday appeared the most circumspect, almost reluctant, to mete out punishment to activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who it held guilty of contempt of court for his tweets in June, ‘against’ the judiciary, including one on a widely circulated picture showing Chief Justice SA Bobde astride a heavy bike. The conviction of Bhushan had generated a body of disapproving opinion, including those expressed in newspaper editorials and in social media commentaries.

While reserving its judgment on the punishment, a Bench led by justice Arun Mishra observed on Tuesday that “if you are hurting someone, then what is wrong in apologising?” The remark was even as a three-day window given to the lawyer to retract or apologise for his tweets had ended on Monday

Refusing to retract or apologise, Bhushan iterated that the tweets “represented” a “bonafide belief that I continue to hold” and “an apology for expression of these beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be insincere” and “contempt of my conscience”.

Separately, advovate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Bhushan, appealed to the court not to make Bhushan “a martyr”. Stating that the case requires to be closed and the controversy put to end, he said the SC should give statesman-like message.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, assisting the top court, also on Tuesday suggested the judges “to give a quietus to this matter” and Bhushan should be pardoned with a warning. He said that several sitting and retired judges had commented on corruption in the higher judiciary. “These statements would only be to tell the court that you should look at the unclear and reform yourself,” Venugopal said.

Justice Mishra said, “You have to differentiate somewhere. Fair criticism is not a problem, it is for the benefit of the institution… If we are going to destroy each other, who will have faith in this institution? You have to be tolerant, see what the court is doing and why. Don’t just attack. Judges can’t go to press to defend themselves or explain”.

The top court said it had expected a different statement from Bhushan. “It was painful to read his reply in justification of his tweets. It was absolutely improper. This is not the way a senior lawyer like Prashant Bhushan with over 30 years of experience should behave. And it is not just him, this has become very common now,” said the court.

The apex court on Tuesday again took a 30-minute break from the hearing to allow Bhushan to think on withdrawing his Monday’s 100-page statement in which he refused to apologise.

Responding to the AG’s suggestion, Justice Mishra said: “But he doesn’t think whatever he did was wrong… If he believes he has done no wrong, what’s the purpose of this warning?”

The AG said it would be “tremendously appreciated” if the court left it at that and took a compassionate view. “I myself wanted to file a contempt against Bhushan when two CBI officers were fighting, and he said I fabricated documents. But after he expressed regret, I withdrew. Let the democracy follow in this case when he has exercised his free speech,” Venugopal said.

Dhavan argued that “an apology cannot be coerced. This was not scurrilous, this was a strong criticism of this court which is shared by several others in this country”.

Picking up another point in the Bhushan’s statement, justice Mishra said: “His reply says this court is becoming executive-minded. What do you say to this? How do we not consider all this? Prioritisation of cases has also been adversely commented upon. Ayodhya case has been commented upon. Which judge is left out, sitting or retired?” he asked.

“This institution must take criticism, and not just criticism but extreme criticism. Your shoulders are broad enough,” Davan replied, urging the Bench to forgive Bhushan with just a message, not even a reprimand or warning. “Such reprimand or bald warning is too broad and shouldn’t be done. One cannot be silenced forever. A message that he should be little restrained in future should be enough,” he said.

Get live Stock Prices from BSE, NSE, US Market and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Financial Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest Biz news and updates.

Next Stories
1Congress wants speedy justice in Sushant case, but other issues of Bihar must not take back seat: Surjewala
2Bharat Bandh on Friday: Farmer unions call for nationwide shutdown tomorrow – All you need to know
3Under fire, Madhya Pradesh minister Narottam Mishra regrets his ‘I don’t wear face mask’ remark