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What's Wrong in Using the Word Apology, SC Asks Prashant Bhushan, Reserves Order on Contempt Plea

Prashant Bhushan (Reuters File)

Prashant Bhushan (Reuters File)

Venugopal said that Prashant Bhushan has filed several PILs for the benefit of people and court should consider his public work.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved the order in contempt case against activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan. The court had also granted him 30 minutes to 'think over' his stand of not expressing regret over his tweets against the judiciary.

The top court granted another opportunity to Bhushan after Attorney General KK Venugopal sought forgiveness for the activist-lawyer. "He (Bhushan) should withdraw all statements and express regret," said the top law officer when the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra sought his views on the 'defiant' statement of Bhushan.

He has 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.

Live Law quoted the AG as saying that "it is not necessary to punish him (Bhushan)". Venugopal further said that the lawyer has filed several PILs for the benefit of people and court should consider his public work.

"We have serious statements made by former judges about Supreme Court having failed democracy. I also have a complete list of former SC judges making comments about corruption in judiciary," he said, adding that he will read out two-three such statements.

"These statements are telling the court to reform the court. They seek the improvement of administration of justice. This a case where your lordships should forgive him (Bhushan) or perhaps warn him," he further said.

Justice Mishra noted that a lawyer "of a standing of Bhushan, going to press, making a tweet, carries some weight". He said it affects the public.

The judge said that it is "painful" to read all the statements of the Bhushan and his justifications. "This is not the way a senior lawyer like Prashant Bhushan over 30 years of experience should behave," Mishra noted.

The case deals with Bhushan's tweet against the judiciary. The lawyer had refused to say sorry on Monday and said that an insincere apology would amount to the contempt of my conscience and of an institution. He said this in his supplementary statement filed in the suo motu (on its own) contempt case against him by the top court.

An apology for expression of his beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be insincere, he said.

Bhushan said as an officer of court he believes as a duty to speak up when he believe there is a deviation from its sterling record.

“Therefore I expressed myself in good faith, not to malign the Supreme Court or any particular Chief Justice, but to offer constructive criticism so that the court can arrest any drift away from its long-standing role as a guardian of the Constitution and custodian of peoples' rights,” he said.

On August 20, the top court had granted time till August 24 to Bhushan to reconsider his “defiant statement” refusing to apologise and tender “unconditional apology” for contemptuous tweets against the judiciary and rejected his submission that quantum of punishment be decided by another bench.

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.

He faces simple imprisonment of up to six months or with a fine of up to Rs 2,000 or with both as punishment.

first published:August 25, 2020, 11:46 IST