Advocate Prashant Bhushan refused to submit an unconditional apology to the Supreme Court and filed a new statement regarding the same on Monday. “My tweets represented this bona fide belief that I continue to hold. Public expression of these beliefs was, I believe, in line with my higher obligations as a citizen and a loyal officer of this court,” said Bhushan. A Supreme Court bench led by Justice Arun Mishra is to consider on Tuesday the effect of this supplementary statement by Bhushan declining to offer any apology for his tweets.
“An apology cannot be a mere incantation and any apology has to, as the court has itself put it, be sincerely made. This is especially so when I have made the statements bona fide and pleaded truths with full details, which have not been dealt with by the Court. 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 that I hold in the highest esteem,” said the statement filed by Bhushan.
He further said, “I believe that the Supreme Court is the last bastion of hope for the protection of fundamental rights, the watchdog institutions and indeed for constitutional democracy itself. It has rightly been called the most powerful court in the democratic world, and often an exemplar for courts across the globe. 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.”
He added, “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. 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.”
On 20 August, the SC had reserved its order on a sentence against advocate Prashant Bhushan. On 14 August, the SC had held the lawyer guilty of contempt of court for his tweets derogatory to the CJI and his four predecessors. «We have given time to contemnor (Prashant Bhushan) to submit an unconditional apology, if he so desires. Let it be filed by 24 August. In case, the apology is submitted, the case will be posted for consideration on the same, on 25 Aug,” the top court stated.
The SC had ruled: «Summary jurisdiction of this Court is required to be exercised not to vindicate the dignity and honour of the individual judge, who is personally attacked or scandalised, but to uphold the majesty of the law and of the administration of justice. The foundation of the judiciary is the trust and the confidence of the people in its ability to deliver fearless and impartial justice. When the foundation itself is sought to be shaken by acts which tend to create disaffection and disrespect for the authority of the court by creating distrust in its working, the edifice of the judicial system gets eroded. The scurrilous/malicious attacks by the alleged contemnor Prashant Bhushan are not only against one or two judges but the entire Supreme Court in its functioning of the last six years. Such an attack which tends to create disaffection and disrespect for the authority of this Court cannot be ignored.”
The SC had further said: “The tweets which are based on the distorted facts, in our considered view, amount to committing of ‘criminal contempt’. In the result, we hold alleged contemnor Prashant Bhushan guilty of having committed criminal contempt of this Court.”
On 5 August, the SC had reserved its verdict in the case after Bhushan had defended his two tweets, saying they were against the judges regarding their conduct in their personal capacity and they did not obstruct administration of justice. On July 22, SC had issued notice to him. The court had asked Prashant Bhushan to explain his tweets which were “undermining the dignity and authority of the Supreme Court in general and the office of the Chief Justice of India in particular”.
In his reply to the Court by a 142-page detailed affidavit, Bhushan had stated that expression of bona fide opinion about the Court cannot amount to contempt. He had submitted that there were several shortcomings in the functioning of the judiciary, which warranted criticism. Bhushan, in his affidavit, had also regretted saying CJI Bobde was not wearing a helmet. He had added he failed to notice the bike was stationary and that the CJI was not riding but merely sitting on it.
Mehak Maheshwari, a Gwalior-based lawyer, had filed the contempt petition against Prashant Bhushan, which was converted into suo motu criminal contempt.