The Supreme Court sentenced Prashant Bhushan to a fine of 1 rupee for his two tweets against the judiciary in the contempt of court case filed against the advocate. The bench led by Justice Arun Mishra said that Bhushan has to pay the fine within September 15, and in case he fails to do so, he will have to spend three months in jail and will be debarred from practise for three years.
The Supreme Court said that it has considered the advice given by the Attorney General KK Venugopal, and said that Bhushan’s conduct also needs to be taken into consideration. The Supreme Court bench also noted that Bhushan gave wider publicity to his statements by going to the press.
The top court had reserved its verdict on the sentence to be awarded to Bhushan on August 25, and Justice Arun Mishra, who presided over a three-judge bench, at the fag end of the nearly three-hour-long hearing had asked why he cannot seek an apology and what was wrong in using this word. Justice Mishra is demitting office on September 2.
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. Bhushan was facing simple imprisonment of up to six months or with a fine of up to Rs 2,000 or with both as punishment under Contempt of Court Act.
On August 25, the top court was urged by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan to show "judicial statesmanship" and not make Bhushan a "martyr" by punishing him for contempt over his tweets criticising the judiciary, after the activist-lawyer rejected fresh suggestions from the court for an apology.
On August 25, Rajeev Dhavan, representing Bhushan, had suggested that the top court recall the August 14 verdict convicting him for contempt of court and not impose any sentence and urged it to not only close the case but also to bring an end to the controversy.
Attorney General KK Venugopal requested the court to forgive Bhushan with a message that he should not repeat this act.
The bench also comprising Justices BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, had given 30 minutes to Bhushan to "think over" on withdrawing his statements made in the court and said he made "disparaging remarks against the institution and the judges.”
Venugopal had said Bhushan, who has been refusing to tender an unconditional apology for the tweets, should withdraw all statements and express regret.
The bench on August 20 had granted time till Monday to Bhushan to reconsider his "defiant statement" and tender "unconditional apology" for the contemptuous tweets.
Referring to Bhushan's statements and his refusal to apologise, the bench had told Venugopal that mistakes were committed by all but they needed to be accepted, but here Bhushan was not willing to accept that.
Dhavan had argued that reprimanding Bhushan like "don't do it again" as suggested by the attorney general will not be correct and instead a statesman-like message should be there like "Mr Bhushan though we disagree with many things, but from next time you should be more responsible".
Bhushan in his statement 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.
With inputs from PTI