The Supreme Court will on Monday pronounce the order on the quantum of sentence in the contempt case against activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who has been held guilty of tweets against the judiciary.
On August 25, a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari had reserved the order on the sentence, after Bhushan declined to apologize for the tweets.
The bench referring to Bhushan’s refusal to apologize for his tweets said, “What is wrong in apologizing? Is this word so bad?” During the hearing the bench also gave 30 minutes to Bhushan to think over his stand for not expressing regret in connection with the tweets.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal submitted before the bench that his suggestion would be to close the matter without punishing Bhushan. A contemnor can be punished with simple imprisonment of up to 6 months or with a fine of up to Rs 2,000 or with both. On August 14, the top court held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his derogatory tweets against the judiciary.
Justice Mishra observed that for how long the system would suffer this. The bench noted that judges are condemned and their families are humiliated. “They cannot even speak,” noted the bench.
The top court told Bhushan’s counsel that it expects him to be impartial. “You may have love and affection for anyone… but we want you to be fair. Don’t take sides,” said Justice Mishra.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, representing Bhushan, argued that the apex court could say in the judgment that it did not agree with Bhushan. Dhavan also insisted that nobody can be forced to tender an apology in a contempt proceeding and added that the Harley Davidson remark made by Bhushan was hardly a criticism.
Dhavan contended that the top court could say in the judgment about the kind of code people should follow, but the idea should not be to silence Bhushan.
The top court asked Bhushan during the arguments why is he so averse to apologize for the tweets. Dhavan reiterated that the bench should not make him a martyr, as he has not committed murder or theft.
The AG insisted that the top court should forgive Bhushan and take a compassionate view on the matter. The bench noted that a person should realise his mistake and cited that it gave time to Bhushan, but he refused to apologize.
The AG added that Bhushan should withdraw all statements and express regret.