NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday imposed a token fine of Re 1 on advocate Prashant Bhushan after his conviction for contempt of court for tweets against the present CJI and six former CJI’s.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra while reading out the verdict said, “Court's decisions can’t be influenced by publications or opinions in the media.”
The bench further added, Bhushan's statements to press, even before they were considered by this court, was to influence the proceedings.
The court also said that the press conference by four apex court Judges in January 2018 was wrong and said, “Judges are not supposed to hold a press conference.”
The bench while imposing fine of Re 1 on Bhushan makes it clear that if he doesn’t deposit the same by September 15, he will have to undergo 3-month imprisonment and be debarred from practice for 3 years.
On August 25, the top court was urged by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan to show "judicial statesmanship" and not make Bhushan a "martyr" by punishing him for contempt over his tweets criticising the judiciary, after the activist-lawyer rejected fresh suggestions from the court for an apology.
Bhushan had filed a supplementary statement reiterating his position to stand by his tweets. He refused to apologise for the tweets for which he was held to be in contempt.
As the top court reserved its verdict on the sentence to be awarded to Bhushan, Justice Arun Mishra, who presided over a three-judge bench, at the fag end of the nearly three-hour-long hearing had asked why he cannot seek an apology and what was wrong in using this word.
Justice Mishra will be demitting office on September 2.
The apex court on August 14 had held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his two derogatory 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.
On August 25, Dhavan, representing Bhushan, had suggested that the top court recall the August 14 verdict convicting him for contempt of court and not impose any sentence and urged it to not only close the case but also to bring an end to the controversy.
“This institution must have criticism and not just criticism but extreme criticism. Your shoulders are broad enough,” Dhavan had said.
Justice Mishra observed: “Had it been someone else, it was easier to ignore but when Mr Bhushan says something, it has some effect.”
Attorney General K K Venugopal urged the bench to let off Bhushan with a warning or reprimand. But Justice Mishra had asserted: “If a person says he didn’t make a mistake and he won’t apologize for it despite repeated opportunities, what will be the purpose of saying don’t do it again. It is not about us or him. It is about the institution.”
The bench also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, had given 30 minutes to Bhushan to "think over" on withdrawing his statements made in the court and said he made "disparaging remarks against the institution and the judges".
Venugopal had said Bhushan, who has been refusing to tender an unconditional apology for the tweets, should withdraw all statements and express regret.
The bench on August 20 had granted time till Monday to Bhushan to reconsider his "defiant statement" and tender "unconditional apology" for the contemptuous tweets.
Referring to Bhushan's statements and his refusal to apologise, the bench had told Venugopal that mistakes were committed by all but they needed to be accepted, but here Bhushan was not willing to accept that.
Dhavan had argued that reprimanding Bhushan like "don't do it again" as suggested by the attorney general will not be correct and instead a statesman-like message should be there like "Mr Bhushan though we disagree with many things, but from next time you should be more responsible".
Bhushan in his statement had refused to offer an apology to the Supreme Court for his two tweets against the judiciary, saying what he expressed represented his bona fide belief which he continued to hold.
(With ENS and Agencies Inputs)