The Supreme Court Tuesday reserved its verdict on quantum of punishment against senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan who was convicted of criminal contempt for his two tweets.
Starting the day’s proceedings, Attorney General K K Venugopal reiterated his appeal to the apex court to take a “compassionate view” and forgive Bhushan. However, the court said the lawyer has not apologised yet and has even made disparaging remarks in the affidavit filed in his defence. Venugopal had urged the top court last week as well to spare Bhushan from any punitive action.
On August 14, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra found two tweets by Bhushan amounting to “serious contempt of court” and found him guilty of criminal contempt. Bhushan had refused to apologise for his tweets, saying they were not done in “absence mindedness” and were nothing but a small attempt to discharge what he considered to be his “highest duty at this juncture in the history of our republic”.
Venugopal urged a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra to not punish Bhushan but “warn” him if necessary and let him go. To this, Justice Mishra replied, “But if Bhushan ji is not having any inkling that he has done anything wrong, what effect do you think such an advise will serve?”
He further said the court had given Bhushan time but he refused to apologise.
The bench took the AG through the affidavit filed by Bhushan in his defence, saying that he made disparaging remarks against the top court here as well. “Prashant Bhushan says SC has collapsed, is it not objectionable?” the bench asked the AG.
To this, AG Venugopal said, “I think he (Bhushan) should withdraw it in entirety and express regret.” He also said the court should let him off if he apologises.
The bench then sought views of senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, counsel for Bhushan, on punishment to be awarded in the contempt case. Dhavan said judgment convicting Bhushan should be recalled, no sentence be imposed on him.
“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,” he said.
“Not only the Bhushan contempt case be closed, the controversy should be put to end. SC should give statesman like message,” he added.
To this, Justice Mishra replied, “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 identifying with he former more.”
Meanwhile, a new Supreme Court bench will hear the 2009 contempt case against Bhushan from next month as Justice Arun Mishra retires in the first week of September. The bench headed by Justice Mishra said the matter will be listed before an appropriate bench on September 10 as they are ‘short of time’.
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