Advocate Prashant Bhushan Tuesday refused to tender an apology for alleged remarks against the judiciary in an interview to Tehelka for which a case of criminal contempt was initiated against him and the magazine’s former editor Tarun Tejpal in 2009.
Instead, he issued a “statement…to the court”, seeking to explain his remarks.
A press note by his office said a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, which took up the case Tuesday, told Senior Advocates Rajeev Dhavan and Kapil Sibal, appearing for Bhushan and Tejpal, respectively, that “the judges wanted to put an end to the matter to protect the dignity of the court and of the judges”. “They therefore asked the parties to issue statements tendering their apologies. Mr. Prashant Bhushan refused to tender an apology but agreed to issue the following statement,” the note, forwarded by Advocate Cheryl Dsouza, added.
Bhushan, it said, had stated, …“in my interview to Tehelka in 2009 I have used the word corruption in a wide sense meaning lack of propriety. I did not mean only financial corruption or deriving any pecuniary advantage. If what I have said caused hurt to any of them or to their families in any way, I regret the same. I unreservedly state that I support the institution of the judiciary and especially the Supreme Court of which I am a part, and had no intention to lower the prestige of the judiciary in which I have complete faith. …I regret if my interview was misunderstood as doing so…”
The court’s order after the hearing said “explanation/apology submitted by Mr. Prashant Bhushan/ Respondent No.1 and Mr. Tarun Tejpal/Respondent No.2, have not been received so far. In case we do not accept the explanation/apology, we will hear the matter. We reserve the order”.
Soon after it took up the matter, the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, told Dhavan “we are always for freedom of speech” and there is a “thin line you may have crossed between freedom and contempt”. The hearing later went off camera with the judges speaking to Dhavan and Sibal over a WhatsApp call.
The statement from Bhushan’s office said that “the court however reassembled in the afternoon and when Justice Mishra indicated that he may pass an order holding that any statement of corruption in the judiciary would amount to per se contempt, he was told by Dr. Dhavan, that such a finding cannot be and should not be rendered without hearing the parties”.
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