Saturday 28 May 2022
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Prashant Bhushan’s plea to let another bench hear contempt case rejected

The Supreme Court today rejected the request of activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan to let a bench other than the present one hear the arguments on the quantum of sentence in the contempt proceedings where he has been held guilty. The Justice Arun Mishra-led bench assured Bhushan that no punishment would befall him until his review against the order convicting him in the case was decided.

The bench, which comprises also Justices BR Gavi and Murari, told senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing Bhushan, that he was asking them to commit an “act of impropriety” by saying that argument on sentencing be heard by another bench.

Dave sought right in the beginning deferment of on the quantum of sentence in the case saying that he would be filing a review petition against the conviction order.

During the hearing, Prashant Bhushan quoted Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to say he would not apologise for his tweets. He said he would “cheerfully” accept the punishment given to him by the Supreme Court for contempt.

Bhushan read out the written statement after the Supreme Court rejected his plea for deferment of on the quantum of punishment for contempt. “I believe that open criticism is necessary to safeguard democracy and its values. My are attempts to discharge my duties, not else. My tweets need to be seen as an attempt for working for the betterment of the institution,” Bhushan said.

“I am here, therefore, to cheerfully submit to any penalty that can lawfully be inflicted upon me for what the court has determined to be an offence, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen,” the rabble-rouser said.

The bench told Prashant Bhushan if he did not his comments, he would destroy the institution, and the court would not punish for contempt so easily. “Balancing has to be there; restraint has to be there. There is a Lakshman Rekha for everything. Why should you cross the rekha (line)?” said Justice Mishra.

Justice Mishra said the court welcomed pursuing good cases in public interest. “I haven’t convicted anyone of contempt in over 20 years as a judge. This is my first such order,” said Justice Mishra.

The Supreme Court said it would give 2-3 days time to Prashant Bhushan to think over and consider a modification to his “defiant” statement refusing to apologise and “cheerfully” accepting punishment.

Reacting to this, Bhushan said he could consult his lawyers but added: “I am sorry there will not be any substantial change”.

The Supreme Court bench again said it would be better if he reconsidered and modified his statement. This time, Bhushan agreed to think over it in two or three days.

Earlier, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan had said the Supreme Court’s 14 August convicting Bhushan was a “cut-paste” job from earlier verdicts. “It will be severely criticised when it reaches academia,” Dhavan said. “We welcome criticism of our judgments,” the Supreme Court bench responded.

On 14 August, the apex court had held Bhushan of criminal contempt for his derogatory against the judiciary. The bench had said the comments could not be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary made in the public interest.

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