Bhushan stands ground, says won’t apologise

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - News - Mu­rali Kr­ish­nan

NEW DELHI: Lawyer Prashant Bhushan stood his ground on Mon­day, re­fus­ing to apologise to the Supreme Court for his posts on Twit­ter crit­i­cis­ing the top court and CJI SA Bobde.

In a state­ment he sub­mit­ted to the apex court, Bhushan said the views he ex­pressed rep­re­sented his bona fide (good faith) be­liefs and, there­fore, of­fer­ing an apol­ogy for ex­press­ing such be­liefs would be in­sin­cere.

“An apol­ogy can­not be a mere in­can­ta­tion and any apol­ogy has to be sin­cerely made. 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 (Supreme court ) that I hold in high­est es­teem,” he added in the sup­ple­men­tary state­ment sub­mit­ted through ad­vo­cate Kamini Jaiswal .

Ac­cord­ing to the de­tails avail­able on the Supreme Court web­site, the case will be taken up on Tues­day to con­sider the ef­fect of the sup­ple­men­tary state­ment sub­mit­ted by Bhushan.

The Supreme Court, on Au­gust 20, asked Bhushan to re­con­sider his stance and of­fer an apol­ogy by Mon­day fail­ing which, it cau­tioned the ac­tivist lawyer, it would pro­ceed against him and pun­ish him for crim­i­nal contempt of court.

Even at the time, Bhushan said that while he ap­pre­ci­ated the court’s move of giv­ing him time, he would not change his mind.

“I be­lieve that the Supreme Court is the last bas­tion of hope for the pro­tec­tion of fun­da­men­tal rights, 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 un­tram­melled rule of the ex­ec­u­tive. This casts a duty, es­pe­cially for an of­fi­cer of this court like my­self, to speak up, when I be­lieve there is a de­vi­a­tion from its ster­ling record,” Bhushan said. He main­tained that the tweets put out by him were in good faith and were not in­tended to ma­lign the apex court or the CJI but only of­fered con­struc­tive crit­i­cism so that the court could ar­rest any drift away from its long­stand­ing role as a guardian of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

In the writ­ten ar­gu­ments sub­mit­ted sep­a­rately by Bhushan’s coun­sel, se­nior ad­vo­cate Ra­jeev Dha­van, reliance was placed on at­tor­ney gen­eral (AG) KK Venu­gopal’s opin­ions re­gard­ing cor­rup­tion and nepo­tism in the ju­di­ciary. The AG , dur­ing the hear­ing of the mat­ter on Au­gust 20, asked the apex court not to pun­ish Bhushan while high­light­ing that he him­self made a speech in 1987 point­ing out cer­tain ills plagu­ing the ju­di­ciary.

“Con­tem­nor’s (Bhushan) com­ments were opin­ion made in good faith founded on true facts. Sim­i­lar opin­ions were made be­fore (in 1987) by the At­tor­ney Gen­eral. On this ba­sis, the At­tor­ney Gen­eral has coun­selled against pun­ish­ment,” Bhushan said in his writ­ten sub­mis­sions.

The court found Bhushan guilty of the of­fence of crim­i­nal contempt on Au­gust 14. Ac­cord­ing to the Contempt of Courts Act, the of­fence car­ries a pun­ish­ment of up to six months in prison or a fine up to ~2,000 or both.

Bhushan posted two tweets, one against the Supreme Court on June 27 and an­other against CJI Bobde on June 29.

Bhushan’s first tweet said: “When his­to­ri­ans in the 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 SC in this de­struc­tion, and more par­tic­u­larly the role of the last four

CJIS.” The sec­ond re­ferred to CJI Bobde and said: “The CJI rides a ~50-lakh mo­tor­cy­cle be­long­ing to a BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] leader at Raj Bha­van, Nag­pur, with­out wear­ing a mask or hel­met, at a time when he keeps the SC on lock­down mode deny­ing cit­i­zens their fun­da­men­tal right to ac­cess jus­tice!”

Me­hek Ma­h­eswhari, an ad­vo­cate, filed a pe­ti­tion be­fore the Supreme Court on July 9 seek­ing ini­ti­a­tion of contempt of court pro­ceed­ings against Bhushan for the tweets. Based on Ma­hesh­wari’s pe­ti­tion, the court took suo motu {on its own}cog­nizance of the mat­ter and listed the case for the first time on July 22 and is­sued no­tice to Bhushan the same day.

Af­ter a day-long hear­ing on Au­gust 5, the Supreme Court pro­nounced its ver­dict on Au­gust 14, hold­ing Bhushan guilty of crim­i­nal contempt of court. It how­ever, kept the mat­ter for fur­ther hear­ing on Au­gust 20 to de­cide on the sen­tence to be im­posed on Bhushan.

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