New Delhi: Advocate Prashant Bhushan announced at a press conference Monday that he will “respectfully pay the fine of Re 1” imposed by the Supreme Court in the contempt of court case against him.
“While I reserve the right to seek a review of the conviction and sentencing, by way of an appropriate legal remedy, I propose to submit myself to this order and will respectfully pay the fine, just as I would have submitted to any other lawful punishment,” he said.
Bhushan was held guilty of contempt and fined for his tweets on Chief Justice of India (CJI) S.A. Bobde and former CJIs. In one of his tweets, Bhushan had commented on a photo of CJI Bobde astride a Harley Davidson bike. In the other, he had criticised the incumbent and past CJIs.
Defending his tweets during the conference, Bhushan said they were not intended to disrespect the Supreme Court or judiciary but to express anguish at what he felt was a “deviation from its sterling past record”.
Bhushan also said that the contempt proceedings against him became a “watershed moment for freedom of speech” and it has “encouraged many people to stand up and speak against the injustices in our society”.
His statement came hours after the Supreme Court bench, comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari, ruled that Bhushan will have to deposit the fine amount of Re 1 by 15 September, failing which he will have to undergo a sentence of three months and will also be debarred from practice for three years.
Also read: What is an apology? Prashant Bhushan’s contempt case reveals true meaning of the word
Bhushan’s refusal to apologise
The top court had initiated contempt proceedings against Bhushan on 21 July for the two tweets. On 14 August, the Supreme Court found him guilty of criminal contempt and said not dealing firmly with malicious attacks against the judiciary “may affect the national honour and prestige in the comity of nations”.
The court had then posted the matter for 20 August to hear arguments on the punishment for contempt, which can go up to a maximum of six months in jail.
But on 20 August, it gave Bhushan time till 24 August to tender an unconditional apology.
Bhushan had earlier (on 19 August) sought deferment of his sentence hearing, on the ground that he intended to file a review petition against the judgment convicting him. A review petition needs to be filed within 30 days from the date of the judgment or the order needs to be reviewed. The court, however, rejected his request.
On 24 August, he had filed a fresh statement in the Supreme Court, refusing to apologise. His statement said that “an insincere apology” from his side will amount to the contempt of his conscience and of an institution that he holds in the highest esteem.
After this statement was filed, the case was heard again on 25 August, to consider Bhushan’s statement. The court had then reserved its verdict on the issue of sentence.
Also read: Contempt against lawyer for posting screenshot of hearing, HC lets him go after apology