NEW DELHI: Lawyer Prashant Bhushan said on Monday he will submit the token fine of Rs 1 imposed by the Supreme Court in the contempt case for his tweets against the judiciary, adding that he will file a review plea against the order.
“While I reserve the right to seek a review of the conviction and sentencing, by way of an appropriate legal remedy, I propose to submit myself to this order and will respectfully pay the fine, just as I would have submitted to any other lawful punishment,” he said.
Bhushan was held guilty of contempt and fined for his tweets on Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde and former CJIs. In one of his tweets, Bhushan had commented on a photo of CJI Bobde astride a Harley Davidson bike. In the other, he had criticised the incumbent and past CJIs.
Defending his tweets during the conference, Bhushan said they were not intended to disrespect the SC or judiciary but to express anguish at what he felt was a “deviation from its sterling past record”.
He also said the contempt proceedings against him became a “watershed moment for freedom of speech” and it has “encouraged many people to stand up and speak against the injustices in our society”.
“My tweets were not intended in any way to disrespect the SC or the judiciary as a whole, but were merely meant to express my anguish... Every Indian wants a strong and independent judiciary. If the courts get weakened, it weakens the republic...,” he said.
"I have had the greatest respect for the institution of the Supreme Court. I have always believed it to be the last bastion of hope, particularly for the weak and the oppressed who knock at its door for the protection of their rights, often against a powerful executive," Bhushan said at a press conference by CJAR (Campaign for Judicial Accountability & Reforms) and Swaraj Abhiyan.
The issue was never about "me versus the Judges, much less about me versus the Supreme Court", he said.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra asked Bhushan on Monday to deposit the fine by September 15, failing which he will attract a jail term of three months and debarment from law practice for three years.
Freedom of speech cannot be curtailed but rights of others need to be respected, said the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, which held him guilty of contempt earlier this month.
Bhushan further said: "When the Supreme Court of India wins, every Indian wins. Every Indian wants a strong and independent judiciary. Obviously if the courts get weakened, it weakens the republic and harms every citizen."
"I am extremely grateful and humbled by the solidarity and support expressed by countless persons, ex-judges, lawyers, activists and fellow citizens who encouraged me to remain firm and true to my beliefs and conscience."
He said that these people strengthen his hope that this trial may draw the country's attention to the cause of freedom of speech and judicial accountability and reform.
"What is very heartening is that this case has become a watershed moment for freedom of speech and seems to have encouraged many people to stand up and speak out against the injustices in our society.
"I would be failing in my duty if I do not thank my legal team, especially senior advocates Dr Rajeev Dhavan and Dushyant Dave. I am more confident now than ever before that truth shall prevail. Long live democracy! Satyameva Jayate!" Bhushan said.
On August 14, the apex court had held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his two derogatory tweets against the judiciary and maintained they cannot be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary made in public interest.
Earlier, in a statement, Bhushan had refused to offer an apology to the Supreme Court for the tweets, saying what he had expressed represented his bona fide belief which he continued to hold.
(With PTI Inputs)