NEW DELHI: Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan told the Supreme Court on Thursday that he did not tweet in “absence mindedness” and that it would be insincere and contemptuous on his party to apologise for the tweets that continues to be his "bona fide belief".
On August 14, the apex court held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his 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.
The two tweets of Bhushan were posted on the micro-blogging site on June 27 on the functioning of judiciary in past six years, and on July 22 with regard to Chief Justice of India S A Bobde. "When historians in future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction, & more particularly the role of the last 4 CJIs," Bhushan had tweeted on June 27.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra was told by Bhushan, who himself addressed the court along with senior lawyers Rajeev Dhavan and Dushyant Dave representing him, that his tweets were nothing but a small attempt to discharge what he considered to be his highest duty at this juncture in the history of our republic. The bench also comprised Justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari.
“I did not tweet in a fit of absence mindedness. It would be insincere and contemptuous on my part to offer an apology for the tweets that expressed what was and continues to be my bona fide belief. Therefore, I can only humbly paraphrase what the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi had said in his trial: I do not ask for mercy. I do not appeal to magnanimity," Bhushan said in his statement to the court.
"I am here, therefore, to cheerfully submit to any penalty that can lawfully be inflicted upon me for what the Court has determined to be an offence, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen,” he said.
Bhushan said that "he has gone through the August 14 judgment of the Court and was pained that he has been held guilty of committing contempt of the Court whose majesty he has tried to uphold -- not as a courtier or cheerleader but as a humble guard - for over three decades, at some personal and professional cost."
“I am pained, not because I may be punished, but because I have been grossly misunderstood,” he said.
Bhushan said, “I am shocked that the court holds me guilty of “malicious, scurrilous, calculated attack” on the institution of administration of justice. I am dismayed that the Court has arrived at this conclusion without providing any evidence of my motives to launch such an attack”.
Bhushan said he must confess he has been disappointed that the court did not find it necessary to serve him with a copy of the complaint on the basis of which the suo motu (on its own) notice was issued, nor found it necessary to respond to the specific averments made by him in his reply affidavit or the many submissions of his counsel.
“I find it hard to believe that the Court finds my tweet “has the effect of destabilizing the very foundation of this important pillar of Indian democracy”. I can only reiterate that these two tweets represented my bonafide beliefs, the expression of which must be permissible in any democracy,” he said.
"Failing to speak up would have been a dereliction of duty, especially for an officer of the court like myself,” he added.
Read his full statement here:
During the hearing, the bench said it is rejecting Bhushan’s submissions that the arguments on quantum of sentence in the contempt proceedings in which he has been held guilty be heard by another top court bench. The bench also added it was not inclined to entertain the application filed by Bhushan on Wednesday for deferment of hearing on the quantum of sentence in the case.
On August 14, the top court in its 108-page verdict in the suo motu contempt case, had said, “The tweets which are based on the distorted facts, in our considered view, amount to committing criminal contempt”.
“In the result, we hold alleged contemnor No.1 - Mr. Prashant Bhushan guilty of having committed criminal contempt of this Court” it had said.