Monday, Oct 03, 2022

‘Apology Is A Magical Word,’ Says SC As It Reserves Order In Contempt Case Against Prashant Bhushan

Prashant Bhushan's counsel Rajeev Dhavan told the top court its order of August 20, directing Bhushan to file an unconditional apology, was an exercise of coercion.

Prashant Bhushan File Photo

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its judgment on the contempt of court case against activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan who was convicted in the case earlier this month.

The Court earlier in the day granted another opportunity to activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, convicted for contempt, to 'think over' his stand of not expressing regret over his tweets against the judiciary.

The top court granted Bhushan 30 minutes to reconsider his stand after Attorney General K K Venugopal sought forgiveness for the activist-lawyer.

"He (Bhushan) should withdraw all statements and express regret," said the top law officer when the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra sought his views on the 'defiant' statement of Bhushan.

After the hearing resumed, Bhushan's counsel Rajeev Dhavan told the bench that the Supreme Court will collapse if it does not face severe criticism.

Also Read'I Do Not Ask For Mercy... It Would Be Insincere To Offer Apology': Prashant Bhushan To SC

Dhavan told the top court that it must recall the guilty verdict against Bhushan. He said the court's order of August 20, directing Bhushan to file an unconditional apology, was an exercise of coercion.

The bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra asked Dhavan what could be the punishment for Bhushan if the court indeed decided to punish him.  In response, Dhavan told the bench that Bhushan doesn't wish to be made a martyr and that a punishment will make him one. Dhavan told the bench that the court can bar Bhushan from practicing for some time, if it so chooses to do so. However, he asked the top court not to punish him as per contempt law provisions.

Bhushan has refused to offer an apology to the Supreme Court for his two tweets against the judiciary, saying what he expressed represented his bona fide belief which he continued to hold.

"What is wrong in using the word apology. Why not apologise. Apology is a magical word, it heals. If you apologise, you will be in the same category as Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi used to say if your words hurt someone, apologise. It will act as a balm," Justice Mishra said.

"Bhushan says the Supreme Court has collapsed, is it not objectionable," asked the bench.

Justice Mishra said that since Judges can't go to the press to put their views, the Bar must protect them. He added that calling judges to explain their stand on Bhushan's comments would lead to an unending enquiry.

AG Venugopal said  the court must put an end to the case now without considering Bhushan's affidavit. It should let him off with a reprimandm, the AG said.

The court can speak through orders only and even in his affidavit, Bhushan has made disparaging remarks against the judiciary, the bench said.

The court should warn him and take compassionate view, Venugopal told the bench, which also comprised Justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari.

When Bhushan does not think he did anything wrong then what is the point of giving him advice to not repeating it, the bench said.

Also ReadWhy I Defend Prashant Bhushan’s Right To Offend

"A person should be realise mistake. We gave Bhushan time but he says he will not apologise," it said.

On August 20, the top court had granted time till August 24 to Bhushan to reconsider his “defiant statement” refusing to apologise and tender “unconditional apology” for contemptuous tweets against the judiciary and rejected his submission that quantum of punishment be decided by another bench. 

(With PTI Inputs)