Prashant Bhushan fined Rs. 1 by Supreme Court in Contempt Case, faces 3 month jail if not paid

DY365
DY365
Published: August 31,2020 01:09 PM
DY365

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August 31, 2020: Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, held guilty of contempt for his tweets criticizing Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and the Supreme Court, has been fined Rs 1 by the top court.

August 31, 2020: Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, held guilty of contempt for his tweets criticizing Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and the Supreme Court, has been fined Rs 1 by the top court. If he doesn't pay the fine by September 15, he can go to jail for three months or be banned from practicing for three years.



"Freedom of speech cannot be curtailed," said the Supreme Court while handing down the sentence, referring to "sane advice" from Attorney General KK Venugopal to the court and to Prashant Bhushan.



Prashant Bhushan had refused to retract his comments or apologies, saying he considered it the discharge of his "highest duty" and apologizing would be contempt of his conscience and the court. Open criticism was necessary to "safeguard the democracy and its values," he had said, adding that he would cheerfully accept punishment.



The Supreme Court had sought an unconditional apology, maintaining that freedom of speech is not absolute. "You may do hundreds of good things, but that doesn't give you a license to do ten crimes," the court had said.





In the last hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal had suggested that Mr Bhushan be let off with a warning. "Bhushan's tweets seek the improvement of the administration of justice... Let democracy follow in this case when he has exercised his free speech... It will be tremendously appreciated if the court leaves it at that," he had said.



Mr Bhushan's counsel Rajeev Dhavan had argued that top court's order giving him time for an unconditional apology was "an exercise in coercion". Mr Bhushan should be forgiven with a message he said, arguing: "One cannot be silenced forever... A message that he (Prashan Bhushan) should be little restrained in future should be enough."



Prashant Bhushan, in one of the tweets, had said four previous Chief Justices of India played a role in destroying democracy in India in the last six years. Another tweet commenting on a photo of Chief Justice Bobde on a Harley Davidson last month, had flagged that he was without a helmet and face mask while keeping the court in lockdown and denying citizens their right to justice.





Bhushan has already expressed regret in another contempt case involving his comment that half the 16 Chief Justices of India were corrupt, in an interview to Tehelka magazine in 2009. The word corruption, he told the court, was used in "wide sense meaning lack of propriety" and not financial corruption. The Supreme Court says it wants to explore whether corruption charges can be made against sitting and retired judges and the procedure to deal with it.