“I did not tweet in absence mindedness” says Prashant Bhushan to SC: Report

The Supreme Court on thursday refused to hear lawyer Prashant Bhushan appeal to delay the hearing on his sentence. The top court said that it will not hear the appeal till Bhushan’s review appeal against conviction for criminal contempt is filed and settled.

The 3 judge bench of justice Arun Mishra and Krishna Murari said that the decision is complete only after the order. It gave surity to Bhushan that no punishment will be acted upon until his review on the order convicting him in the case is settled.

Bhushan had appealed to the Supreme Court to delay hearing on his sentence in a contempt of court case till the time his review appeal against the August 14 sentence order is held up.

The court had taken suo-moto notice of two tweets posted by Prashant Bhushan on June 27 and 29 where he had accused the Chief Justice of India (CJI) of closing down courts. He also commented on past CJIs of destroying democracy.

The top court had on August 14 held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his derogatory tweets, saying they cannot be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary made in the public interest.

In its judgment, the bench had said, “The Indian judiciary is not only one of the pillars on which the Indian democracy stands but is the central pillar. An attempt to shake the very foundation of constitutional democracy has to be dealt with an iron hand.”

“ It would be insincere and contemptuous on my part to offer an apology for the tweets that expressed what was and continues to be my bona fide belief. Therefore, I can only humbly paraphrase what the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi had said in his trial: I do not ask for mercy. I do not appeal to magnanimity,” news agency PTI quoted Bhushan’s statement.

Appearing before the same bench, also comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, Bhushan said his tweets were nothing but a small attempt to discharge what he considered to be his “highest duty at this juncture in the history of our republic”.

“I did not tweet in a fit of absence mindedness. It would be insincere and contemptuous on my part to offer an apology for the tweets that expressed what was and continues to be my bona fide belief. Therefore, I can only humbly paraphrase what the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi had said in his trial: I do not ask for mercy. I do not appeal to magnanimity,” news agency PTI quoted Bhushan’s statement to the court.

“I am here, therefore, to cheerfully submit to any penalty that can lawfully be inflicted upon me for what the Court has determined to be an offense, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen,” he said.

Under the Contempt of Court Act, an act of unlawful contempt of court can attract a punishment of six months imprisonment or Rs 2,000 fine or both. Bhushan highlighted in his petition that in criminal contempt proceedings, the Supreme Court functions as a trial court and is also the last court.

Bhushan requested the court to accept his request for deferment in view of the underlying public policy with respect to safeguarding the liberty of a citizen under Article 21.