The Supreme Court on Monday imposed a fine of one rupee against Prashant Bhushan as punishment in the contempt case against him for criticising the judiciary on Twitter. The activist-lawyer has to deposit the fine with the top court by 15 September. A default would result in a three-month imprisonment and he will be barred from law practice for three years and, the SC ruled.
Justice Arun Mishra, heading the apex court bench pronouncing the judgement on the sentencing in the contempt case said, “Freedom of expression is there but rights of others should also be respected.”
The apex court bench also comprising Justices BR Gavai and Krishna Murari had reserved its verdict on 25 August.
The three judge bench held that we have considered the sane advice given by the attorney general to the court and to the contemnor.
Attorney general K.K. Venugopal on last day of hearing had submitted that Bhushan should be let off with a warning telling him to “please don’t repeat this in future.” He added that the court should not punish Bhushan if he expresses regret.
The court observed that the AG had also initiated a contempt against Bhushan earlier in a separate matter, however the AG had withdrawn the case after Bhushan expressed regret.
“We gave opportunities and encouragement to contemnor to express regret. Contemnor not only gave wide publicity to the second statement but also gave various interviews to press,” said court.
The top court on 14 August held Bhushan guilty of contempt for his tweets. The court had reserved its order on sentencing while granting time till 24 August to Bhushan to submit an unconditional apology. Bhushan had refused to submit an unconditional apology, saying that an insincere apology would amount to contempt of his conscience.
The 14 August judgement was passed by a bench comprising justice Mishra, justice B.R. Gavai and justice Krishna Murari. Two tweets brought Bhushan, a critic of the government and a lawyer known for taking up liberal causes, under fire from the court. Bhushan’s first tweet pertained to a picture of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde in which he is seen sitting on a high-end motorcycle. In the second tweet, Bhushan gave an opinion on the role of last four chief justices of India in the context of the state of affairs in the country.