Prashant Bhushan fined Re 1 in contempt case; 3 -months in jail with 3-year ban in case of default
Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, held guilty of contempt for his tweets criticising Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and the Supreme Court, has been fined Re 1 by the top court.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday imposed a token fine of Re 1 on lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan as punishment in connection with the contempt of court case against him.
The apex court directed Bhushan to deposit Re 1 fine with its registry by September 15.
In case of default, a bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Arun Mishra, said that Bhushan should be barred from practicing law for a period of three years and imprisoned for three months if he defaults on paying the fine.
The bench said that the court's decisions cannot be influenced by the publications or opinions in the media and noted that Bhushan's statements to the press even before they were considered by this court was to influence the proceedings.
"Freedom of speech cannot be curtailed," said the Supreme Court while handing down the sentence, referring to "sane advice" from Attorney General KK Venugopal to the court and to Prashant Bhushan.
The Supreme Court, which had asked for an unconditional apology from the lawyer, noted, "We gave several opportunities and encouragement to (Prashant Bhushan) to express regret. He not only gave wide publicity to the second statement but also gave various interviews to press."
The court was apparently referring to Prashant Bhushan's statement refusing to retract his comments or apologise, saying he considered it the discharge of his "highest duty" and apologizing would be contempt of his conscience and the court. Bhushan also said in the statement that open criticism was necessary to "safeguard the democracy and its values."
The top court had, on August 25, reserved its judgement on the quantum of sentence of Bhushan in connection with the case. Reserving its order on the sentence, Justice Mishra had asked the senior lawyer to tender an apology saying there is no harm in apologising if a mistake has been made.
Bhushan was earlier this month held guilty of contempt of court by the Supreme Court for two of his tweets, the first one posted on June 29, related to his post on a picture of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde on a high-end bike.
In his second tweet, Bhushan expressed his opinion on the role of the last four CJIs amid the state of affairs in the country. Meanwhile, another contempt of court case against Prashant Bhushan is also pending before the top court.