Updated: August 25, 2020 8:30:20 pm
The Supreme Court Tuesday reserved its judgment on the quantum of punishment against activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan who has been convicted in a criminal contempt of court case over two tweets posted in June.
The proceedings began with Attorney General KK Venugopal appealing to the apex court to take a “compassionate view” and forgive Bhushan. The SC bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, granted Bhushan 30 minutes to “think over” his stand of not expressing regret over his tweets against the judiciary.
On Monday, Bhushan said the tweets “represented” a “bonafide belief that I continue to hold” and “an apology for expression of these beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be insincere” and “contempt of my conscience”. Senior lawyer Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Bhushan, said the judgment convicting Bhushan should be recalled and no sentence be imposed on him.
The two tweets in question were posted in June this year. The first tweet pertained to Bhushan’s remark on a picture of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on a luxury motorcycle, while in the second Bhushan expressed his opinion on the role of the last four CJIs.
How the the exchanges between lawyer Rajeev Dhavan, AG KK Venugopal and Supreme Court judges played out:
Advocate Rajeev Dhavan (appearing for Prashant Bhushan)
“Please do not make Prashant Bhushan a martyr. After Babri Masjid was demolished, there were crowds to welcome Kalyan Singh. So don’t make him a martyr. Not only the Bhushan contempt case be closed, the controversy should be put to end. SC should give statesman-like message.”
“When your Lordships retire or even when you don’t retire, there will be articles saying that the Court decided some cases correctly or some cases incorrectly. They can’t be stopped. Court can survive only on responsible criticism.”
Attorney General KK Venugopal
“I think Bhushan should withdraw all statements in entirety and express regret. The court should let him off if he apologises. He (Bhushan) expressed regret and then when I read it, I thought we should not proceed with contempt and I withdrew the same because he expressed regret…it will be a great service if Your Lordships take a compassionate view and leave it there.”
Supreme Court judges
“Bhushan says the Supreme Court has collapsed, is it not objectionable. If Bhushan ji is not having any inkling that he has done anything wrong, what effect do you think such an advise will serve?”
“I am not criticising Mr Bhushan…There is a difference between a court officer and a politician…if you are going to press for everything, you are over identifying without your causes…If someone with a standing of 30 years, like Prashant Bhushan, says something, people tend to believe him. They will think whatever he is saying is correct.”
“Everyone is criticising us that we have not considered his response and the AG is saying take his response off the record…Now if this is removed, we will be blamed that we removed his response on our own.”
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