Prashant Bhushan to Supreme Court: Recall contempt verdict, send out statesman-like message

Attorney General K K Venugopal also asked the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra to forgive Bhushan

New Delhi: Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan Tuesday urged the Supreme Court to give a “statesman like message” by recalling the verdict convicting him for the contempt of the court for his two tweets against the judiciary.

Attorney General K K Venugopal also asked the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra to forgive Bhushan, who has been refusing to tender unconditional apology for the tweets.

He said Bhushan should “withdraw all statements and express regret”.

The bench, which on August 20 had granted time till Monday to Bhushan to reconsider his “defiant statement” and tender “unconditional apology” for the contemptuous tweets, concluded hearing on the quantum of punishment to be awarded to the activist lawyer.

“Though Attorney General suggested reprimand but that will be extreme. Don''t make Prashant Bhushan a martyr. Don''t do it. He has not committed murder or theft,” senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Bhushan, submitted before the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari.

Referring to the supplementary statement tendered by Bhushan, his lawyer said that not only this case be closed but even the controversy has come to an end and “there should be a statesman like message” from the top court.

“I make two suggestions. The convicting judgement should be recalled and no sentence should be imposed. I am making a statement on my client''s behalf,” Dhavan said.

Referring to Bhushan''s statements and his refusal to apologise, the bench asked Venugopal that mistakes were committed by all but they needed to be accepted and said that here Bhushan was not willing to accept that.

“We have to be respectful to each other and tolerant. We are not separate from you (lawyers). We have also come from the bar. We are open to criticism but we cannot go in public,” the bench said during the hearing.

Justice Mishra, who is demitting office on September 2, said that judges cannot go to the press to speak their mind.

“We are not carrying prejudice against anyone. Don''t think we are not tolerating criticism. There are several contempt petitions pending but tell us has he been punished ever. It is painful to see such things happening at the time when I am demitting office,” Justice Mishra said.

The court, which granted 30 minutes to Bhushan to ''think over'' his stand of not expressing regret over his tweets, later sought views of Dhavan on the punishment to be awarded to Bhushan in the contempt case.

Dhavan said he did not support Venugopal''s view that Bhushan be reprimanded as it will be an extreme punishment and moreover, he has not committed any murder or theft and any such punishment will make him “a martyr”.

Taking note of Bhushan''s refusal to apologise, the bench commented as to what is wrong in apologising, is this word so bad.

Venugopal said that judges were the third party in this case against whom the alleged statements have been made and the court has not heard them.

“Why are such allegations being made in the first place,” the bench asked.

Judges cannot defend themselves, the bench observed and said that it is the Attorney General who will have to protect the system.

“Reprimanding like ''don''t do it again will not be correct,” Venugopal said.

Earlier in the day, the court granted 30 minutes to Bhushan to reconsider his stand after the Attorney General sought forgiveness for the activist-lawyer.

He had refused to offer an apology to the Supreme Court for his two tweets against the judiciary, saying what he expressed represented his bona fide belief which he continued to hold.

"Bhushan says the Supreme Court has collapsed, is it not objectionable," asked the bench.

The court can speak through orders only and even in his affidavit, Bhushan has made disparaging remarks against the judiciary, the bench said.

The court should warn him and take a compassionate view, Venugopal told the bench.

When Bhushan does not think he did anything wrong then what is the point of giving him advice to not repeating it, the bench said.

"A person should realize his mistake, we gave Bhushan time but he says he will not apologize," it said.

The apex court on August 14 had held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his two derogatory tweets against the judiciary saying they cannot be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary made in the public interest.

He faces simple imprisonment of up to six months or with a fine of up to Rs 2,000 or with both as punishment.

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