The Supreme Court on Monday pronounced the quantum of sentence in the contempt of court case against the senior advocate and lawyer Prashant Bhushan for his two controversial tweets targeting the apex court.
The court has slapped a fine of Re 1 to the lawyer which he has to pay till September 15 and if he fails to do so, he has to face a jail term of three months with a ban from practising as a lawyer for three years.
The bench, comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari has delivered the sentence. “The freedom of speech cannot be curtailed but rights of others need to be respected,” the court observed, PTI reported.
However, Prashant Bhushan has said to the court that he will take a “collective decision” on whether to pay the fine or confront the other options.
“We gave several opportunities and encouragement to express regret. He not only gave wide publicity to the second statement but also gave various interviews to press,” the court said.
During the last hearing, the Attorney General KK Venugopal had insisted that the court should show statesmanship and not use the powers of contempt.
On this, the bench asked him, “What is the use of warning to Bhushan who thinks he has not done anything wrong?”
The apex court had allowed Prashant Bhushan to think on withdrawing a 100-page statement in which he not only refused to apologise but also said: “The hopes of the people of India vest in this Court to ensure the rule of law and the Constitution and not an untrammelled rule of the executive.”
The Supreme Court also said it had expected a different statement. “It was painful to read his reply in justification of his tweets. It was absolutely improper. This is not the way a senior lawyer like Prashant Bhushan with over 30 years of experience should behave. And it is not just him, this has become very common now,” said the court.
On August 20, the Supreme Court gave Prashant Bhushan time till August 24 to submit an “unconditional apology” and asked him to reconsider his defiant statement declining to apologise for his derogatory tweets against the judiciary.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan in his written submissions to the Supreme Court had said there should not be any attempt to coerce him into making an apology and asked the court to recall its August 14 judgement holding him guilty of contempt of court as similar statements were made by retired judges and others.
The apex court had initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against Bhushan for publishing two tweets, the first tweet, which was posted on June 27 alleged that the last four Chief Justices had played a role in the “destruction of democracy” during undeclared “emergency” for last six years.
And the second tweet on June 29 allegedly said the present Chief Justice rode a stationary bike at Nagpur while keeping the apex court in lockdown and denying citizens their right to access to justice.