Advocate Prashant Bhushan Thursday informed the Supreme Court that he had made a “genuine mistake” in his tweets with regard to appointment of M Nageswara Rao as CBI interim chief.
Attorney General K K Venugopal conveyed this to a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha, which is hearing a contempt plea filed by the A-G against Bhushan over his tweets on February 1 in the context of a hearing on the plea by NGO Common Cause questioning Rao’s appointment.
On Thursday, the A-G told the bench that Bhushan had communicated that it was a “genuine mistake” and he did not want to go ahead with the petition. He also reiterated that he does not want any punishment for Bhushan.
The bench said, “You may or may not withdraw the petition against him, but you have raised a question and we will decide it.” When Venugopal said he will not press his plea, the bench said. “It is for us to decide, not you to decide….”
Bhushan Thursday sought recusal of Justice Arun Mishra from hearing the matter. Appearing for him, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave submitted that as per law laid down by the apex court, a party could seek a judge’s recusal if there is reasonable apprehension of bias. Venugopal opposed this, saying it appeared to be an afterthought and that he had apprehensions on its bonafides. He said Bhushan had not raised such a contention when notice was issued to him. Justice Mishra said he was not recusing, but went on to hear arguments on Bhushan’s plea.
Dave later requested the court to allow him to withdraw the recusal application. Justice Mishra asked whether he was tendering an unconditional apology. “Yes” replied Dave, but the bench wanted to hear it from Bhushan. Bhushan stood up and when asked if he was tendering unconditional apology replied, “It was filed bonafide..I’m not withdrawing it.”
“We are not against any individual in this case. We are dealing with a larger issue. It is troubling us. We are seeing that this is happening not only in one case but in a large number of cases,” the bench said. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, which has filed a contempt plea against Bhushan, opposed the plea for recusal and said, “this has become a pattern and this worries us as an institution”. Mehta said he would seek instructions on whether or not to proceed with the contempt plea in the wake of the A-G’s stand.