Advocate Prashant Bhushan Monday reiterated his two tweets for which he was found guilty of contempt of court and declined the offer of the Supreme Court to express an unconditional apology.
Bhushan, in an affidavit filed today, said his tweets represented the bonafide belief he continues to hold. Public expression of these beliefs was he believed, in line with his higher obligations as a citizen and a loyal officer of the court.
He, thus, said an apology for expression of these beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be “insincere”.
"If I retract a statement before this court that I otherwise believe to be true or offer an insincere apology, that in my eyes would amount to contempt of my conscience and of an institution that I hold in highest esteem", says #PrashantBhushan in his affidavit before SC. pic.twitter.com/W6f0OJwXku
“An apology cannot be a mere incantation and any apology has to, as the court has itself put it, be sincerely made. This is especially so when I have made the statements bonafide and pleaded truths with full details, which have not been dealt with by the Court,” he added.
Bhushan went on to state-
“If I retract a statement before this court that I otherwise believe to be true or offer an insincere apology, that in my eyes would amount to the contempt of my conscience and of an institution that I hold in the highest esteem.”
At the outset of his reply, Bhushan expressed his regret at the Court’s order giving him time to submit unconditional apology, if he so desires.
“It is with deep regret that I read the order of this Hon’ble Court dated 20th of August. At the hearing, the court asked me to take 2-3 days to reconsider the statement I made in the court. However, the order subsequently states: “We have given time to the contemnor to submit unconditional apology if he so desires”, Bhushan stated.
Bhushan further said he has never stood on ceremony when it comes to offering an apology for any mistake or wrongdoing on his part.
“It has been a privilege for me to have served this institution and bring several important public interest causes before it. I live with the realization that I have received from this institution much more than I have had the opportunity to give it. I cannot but have the highest regard for the institution of the Supreme Court”, Bhushan said.
Bhushan stated that he believed the Supreme Court was the last bastion of hope for the protection of fundamental rights, the watchdog institutions and indeed for constitutional democracy itself.
It has rightly been called, Bhushan said, the most powerful court in the democratic world, and often an exemplar for courts across the globe.
“Today in these troubling times, the hopes of the people of India vest in this Court to ensure the rule of law and the Constitution and not an untrammeled rule of the executive”, Bhushan added.
As an officer of the Court, Bhushan said, he expressed himself in good faith, not to malign the Supreme Court or any particular Chief Justice, but to offer constructive criticism so that the court could arrest any drift away from its long-standing role as a guardian of the Constitution and custodian of peoples’ rights.
The top court on August 20, while reserving the order on the sentencing of Prashant Bhushan, had directed that Bhushan may submit an unconditional apology if he so desired. In case, an apology is submitted, the case was to be posted for consideration of the same, on August 25.
This followed a statement read out by Bhushan before a three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishan Murari, refusing to apologise for the two tweets for which he was found guilty of criminal contempt of court.
“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.
Reading out his statement before the bench, a defiant Bhushan paraphrased what Mahatma Gandhi had said in his trial:
“I do not ask for mercy. I do not appeal to magnanimity. 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”.
On August 14, the Supreme Court held advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of the 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 of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari 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 the national honour and prestige in the comity of nations.