Thursday, Oct 06, 2022

SC Fines Prashant Bhushan Re 1 In 2020 Contempt Case; 3-Month Jail If He Refuses

Failing to pay the fine amount of one rupee, Prashant Bhushan will be barred from legal practice for thee years and face thee-month jail term, the Supreme Court said.

Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan File Photo

The Supreme Court on Monday directed activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan to deposit a fine of Re 1 by September 15, failing which he will be liable for a three-month jail term and be debarred from practising law. Bhushan has been convicted for contempt of court over his two tweets against the judiciary.

Failing to pay the token fine amount, Bhushan will be barred from legal practice for thee years, the top court said.

The three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said it has taken into account Attorney General K K Venugopal's advice of factoring in Bhushan's professional conduct through the years while deciding the quantum of punishment.

The apex court said it was wrong of Bhushan to have released his statements to the press before the matter was heard in court and termed it an attempt to interfere in the administration of justice.

The bench added that it gave Bhushan opportunity to express regret over his comments but the lawyer did not do so and instead, he gave wide publicity to Bhushan's statements.

Fine is the discretion of the court.  Contempt conviction may attract 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.

The apex court on August 14 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.

On August 25, the top court was urged by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan to show "judicial statesmanship" and not make Bhushan a "martyr" by punishing him for contempt over his tweets criticising the judiciary, after the activist-lawyer rejected fresh suggestions from the court for an apology.

Justice Arun Mishra had asked at the fag end of the nearly three-hour-long hearing why Bhushan cannot seek an apology and what was wrong in using this word.

On August 25, Attorney General K K Venugopal also requested the court to forgive Bhushan with a message that he should not repeat this act.

Dhavan, representing Bhushan, had suggested that the top court recall the August 14 verdict convicting him for contempt of court and not impose any sentence and urged it to not only close the case but also to bring an end to the controversy.

The bench also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, had given 30 minutes to Bhushan to "think over" on withdrawing his statements made in the court and said he made "disparaging remarks against the institution and the judges".

Venugopal had said Bhushan, who has been refusing to tender an unconditional apology for the tweets, should withdraw all statements and express regret.

The bench on August 20 had granted time till Monday to Bhushan to reconsider his "defiant statement" and tender "unconditional apology" for the contemptuous tweets.

Referring to Bhushan's statements and his refusal to apologise, the bench had told Venugopal that mistakes were committed by all but they needed to be accepted, but here Bhushan was not willing to accept that.