SC FINES PRASHANTH BHUSHAN RUPEES 1
The Supreme Court on 14th August held the outspoken Activist Lawyer guilty of contempt for his tweets criticizing the CJI and the Judiciary. The court had said the first post was “patently false” and the second tweet by Bhushan against the Judiciary had the “effect of destabilising the very foundation of this important pillar of democracy.” Later the Court asked him to issue an “unconditional apology” which he declined to do so. The Court had granted time to Mr. Bhushan till 24th August to “think over” and to take his statement back and give an apology which was refused by Prashanth saying an insincere apology will amount to contempt of his conscience. Later, on the 25th of August the top court reserved the verdict for sentencing. On Monday, 31st August, a three-member bench consisting of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice B.R. Gavai, Justice Krishna Murari imposed a symbolic fine of one rupee ($0.0136) and said that lawyer Prashanth Bhushan must pay the fine by September 15th failing which he could be imprisoned for 3 months and barred from practise for 3 years.
THE PREVIOUS HEARING IN THE SC-
The case sparked a debate around free speech and the judiciary’s openness to criticism with thousands of lawyers backing Bhushan and stating that court was being too harsh initially.
Also Attorney General K.K.Venugopal had asked not to punish Bhushan and instead be “compassionate” in their treatment of him. The AG also added that – “Bhushan’s tweet seeks the improvement of the administration of justice, let democracy follow in this case when he has exercised his free speech, it will be tremendously appreciated if the court leaves it at that.”
However, the SC while imposing fine stated that “Freedom of Expression is present but the rights of others should also be respected.”
REACTION AND CONCLUSION –
Later in the day after SC verdict of imposing fine Bhushan released a detailed statement on the verdict that he will, while reserving his right to seek a review of the conviction, “respectfully pay the fine as he would have submitted to any other lawful punishment.”
He also tweeted that he and his senior advocated Rajeev Dhavan had contributed 1 Re immediately. By this, the case concluded, serving as an example for people to learn the importance of “freedom of speech” and for an institution like judiciary to accept “criticism” to improve their administration.
Reporter: Agni Tejas