Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari has reserved its verdict on sentence after it found advocate Prashant guilty of criminal contempt on 14.08.2020 in the suo motu contempt petition initiated against him after he criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets.
Asking advocate Prashant Bhushan to tender an apology for his remarks, the Court said that there is “no harm in apologising if a mistake has been made”.
During the hearing, Senior Advocate Dr Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Bhushan, argued
“This institution must have criticism and not just criticism but extreme criticism.”
He further said that his client, Bhushan, had in his submissions stated that he has the highest regard for the institution but he has his opinion about last four Chief Justices of India (CJIs) about the way in which this court has gone wrong.
“We criticise this court when we feel sincere about this institution. We know our responsibility and our respect for the institution. Don’t make him a martyr,”
To this, Justice Mishra said,
“If we are going to destroy each other, who will have faith in this institution? You have to be tolerant, see what the court is doing and why. Don’t just attack. Judges can’t go to press to defend themselves or explain. Whatever we have to say, we have to write in our judgments,”
Expressing his displeasure over the way the tweets were written, Justice Arun Mishra, said, that judges are condemned, their families are humiliated and they can’t even speak.
“You are a leader of the bar. We expect you to be impartial. You may have love and affection for anyone but we want you to be fair. Don’t take sides,”
Yesterday Bhushan, in a supplementary reply in the suo motu contempt proceedings, submitted that if he retracts his statement before the court that he otherwise believes to be true would amount to the contempt of his conscience in his eyes.
“If I retract a statement before this court that I otherwise believe to be true or offer an insincere apology, that in my eyes would amount to the contempt of my conscience and of an institution that I hold in highest esteem,”
Background of the issue:
The matter deals with certain tweets made by Bhushan. He had recently criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets which prompted the Supreme Court to initiate suo motu contempt petition against him. Here are the tweets:
The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, JJ, in a 108-pages long verdict, said that:
“The scurrilous allegations, which are malicious in nature and have the tendency to scandalize the Court are not expected from a person, who is a lawyer of 30 years standing. In our considered view, it cannot be said that the above tweets can be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary, made bona fide in the public interest.”
Stating that in order to protect the larger public interest, such attempts of attack on the highest judiciary of the country should be dealt with firmly, the Court noticed that Advocate Bhushan has been practicing for last 30 years in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court and has consistently taken up many issues of public interest concerning the health of our democracy and its institutions and in particular the functioning of our judiciary and especially its accountability. Bhushan being part of the institution of administration of justice, instead of protecting the majesty of law has indulged into an act, which tends to bring disrepute to the institution of administration of justice.
(With inputs from ANI)
Read more on the judgment here
Read Advocate Prashant Bhushan’s supplementary reply here