The Supreme Court on Monday asked advocate Prashant Bhushan to pay a fine Rs. 1, failing which he would be sentenced to 3 months in jail and be debarred from practicing in the apex court for 3 years.
The deadline to deposit the fine has been fixed for September 15.
A three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari handed down the punishment to Bhushan for two tweets for which he was found guilty of contempt of court.
The Court said it was showing magnanimity; instead of imposing a severe punishment.
The bench said that from the very beginning it had wanted to put the matter to rest. Directly and indirectly, attempts were made to persuade Bhushan to end the matter by tendering an apology and save the grace of the institution as well as the individual, who is also an officer of the Court.
“However, for the reasons best known to Bhushan, he has neither shown regret in spite of our persuasion or the advice of the learned Attorney General. Thus, we have to consider imposing an appropriate sentence upon him”, the court said.
It was the opinion of the court that the act committed by Bhushan was a very serious one. It said Bhushan had attempted to denigrate the reputation of the institution of the administration of justice of which he himself was a part, it said.
“At the cost of repetition, we have to state that the faith of the citizens of the country in the institution of justice is the foundation of the rule of law which is an essential factor in a democratic set up”, the Court said.
The court further said Bhushan had not even heeded the suggestion of the Attorney General to express regret and withdraw the allegation made in the affidavit in reply.
The bench also observed that the publication of Bhushan’s statement dated August 24 even before the bench could have gone through it attempted to bring down the reputation of the Court.
“If we do not take cognizance of such conduct it will give a wrong message to lawyers and litigants throughout the country.”, the bench said.
Bhushan had refused to apologise for the two tweets.
“My tweets were nothing but a small attempt to discharge what I considered to be my highest duty at this juncture in the history of our republic. 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 bonafide belief”, Bhushan had said.
Attorney General K K Venugopal had urged the court not to punish Bhushan.
On August 14, the Supreme Court held advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court for his two tweets regarding the institution of the Supreme Court and the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
In his first tweet on June 27, Bhushan had said, “When historians in future look back at the last six 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.”
Likewise, the second tweet dated June 29 commented on a viral picture that showed CJI Bobde on a Harley Davidson bike. The tweet in question read: “CJI rides a 50 lakh motorcycle belonging to a BJP leader at Raj Bhavan, Nagpur, without a mask or helmet, at a time when he keeps the SC in Lockdown mode denying citizens their fundamental right to access Justice!”
A three-judge bench led by Justice Mishra held that the tweets were an attempt to shake the very foundation of constitutional democracy and hence must be dealt with an ‘iron hand’.
The bench added that if the attack is not dealt with, with a requisite degree of firmness, then it may affect India’s national honour and it’s prestige in the comity of nations.