Justice Arun Mishra, reading out the operative portions of the order of the sentence, observed that the statements given by judges to press are irrelevant for the consideration of the sentence, as judges are not supposed to go to the press.
“Freedom of speech cannot be curtailed,” said the Supreme Court while handing down the sentence, referring to “sane advice” from Attorney General KK Venugopal to the court and to Prashant Bhushan.
Prashant Bhushan, photographed holding up a Re 1 coin, told reporters he would reveal later today whether he would pay the fine or confront the other options.
“My lawyer & senior colleague Rajiv Dhavan contributed 1 Re immediately after the contempt judgement today which I gratefully accepted,” the 63-year-old tweeted.
My lawyer & senior colleague Rajiv Dhavan contributed 1 Re immediately after the contempt judgement today which I gratefully accepted pic.twitter.com/vVXmzPe4ss
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) August 31, 2020
The Court further deprecated Bhushan for publicizing his statements in media before they were considered by the bench.
According to the reports from livelaw.com, The Court said that it not only gave an opportunity for him to apologize but also “directly and indirectly, persuaded the contemnor to express regret. This was not heeded to by the contemnor and he gave wide publicity to his statements and gave media interviews, which further brought down the dignity of the Court, the bench observed.
The bench also said that it has taken into account the “sane advise” given by the Attorney General.
“If we do not take cognizance of such conduct it will give a wrong message to the lawyers and litigants throughout the country.
However, by showing magnanimity, instead of imposing any severe punishment, we are sentencing the contemnor with a nominal fine of Rs 1 instead”, the bench said.
The Court said that from the very beginning, it was desirous of giving quietus to this matter.
“Directly or indirectly, the contemnor was persuaded to end this matter by tendering an apology and save the grace of the institution as well as the individual, who is an officer of the Court. However, for the reasons best known to him he has neither shown regret in spite of our persuasion or the advice of the learned Attorney General. Thus, we have to consider imposing an appropriate sentence upon him”, it said.
In the last hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal had suggested that Mr Bhushan be let off with a warning. “Bhushan’s tweets seek 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,” he had said.
In one of the tweets, Mr Bhushan had said four previous Chief Justices of India played a role in destroying democracy in India in the last six years. Another tweet reacting to a photo of Chief Justice Bobde on a Harley Davidson last month had flagged that he was without a helmet and face mask while keeping the court in lockdown and denying citizens their right to justice.
The Supreme Court had said during arguments that freedom of speech is not absolute. “You may do hundreds of good things, but that doesn’t give you a license to do ten crimes,” the court had said.
On the last day for tendering an apology, Bhushan filed a statement in SC stating that an apology would be a “contempt of his conscience”.
He stressed that as an officer of the court, he has a duty to “speak up” when he believes that the Judicial institution is deviating from its sterling record.