Ranchi: From homes and roads to in front of the Supreme Court braving the rain, hundreds of lawyers, activists, leaders and ordinary people all protested in cities across India including Ranchi, Jaipur, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Delhi against the contempt of court case in which senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan was declared guilty by Apex court.
In June, Prashant Bhushan in his two tweets had raised serious concern on the recent decisions of highest court of India and tweeted, “When historians in future look back at last 6 years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India without even a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction & more particularly the role of last 4 CJIs (sic).”
The Supreme Court had taken suo-moto cognizance on his tweets and on August 14, on the eve of India’s 74th Independence Day Bhushan was found guilty.
But today during the hearing of the case, Prashant Bhushan was adamant on his stand and declared he will not apologize for his tweets on the Supreme Court and its judges. Whereas, people of India too did not stop because of lockdown and rain to register their dissent on the SC’s decision to sentence Bhushan.
“I am pained that I have been held guilty of committing contempt of the Court whose majesty I have tried to uphold — not as a courtier or cheerleader but as a humble guard – for over three decades, at some personal and professional cost,” the statement of Prashant Bhushan reads.
The senior lawyer further said, “I am pained, not because I may be punished, but because I have been grossly misunderstood. I am shocked that the court holds me guilty of “malicious, scurrilous, calculated attack” on the institution of administration of justice. I am dismayed that the Court has arrived at this conclusion without providing any evidence of my motives to launch such an attack. I must confess that I am disappointed that the court did not find it necessary to serve me with a copy of the complaint on the basis of which the suo motu notice was issued, nor found it necessary to respond to the specific averments made by me in my reply affidavit or the many submissions of my counsel.”
Bhushan expressed his shock and reminded the court, “I find it hard to believe that the Court finds my tweet “has the effect of destabilizing the very foundation of this important pillar of Indian democracy”. I can only reiterate that these two tweets represented my bonafide beliefs, the expression of which must be permissible in any democracy.”
He also mentioned, “Indeed, public scrutiny is desirable for the healthy functioning of the judiciary itself. I believe that open criticism of any institution is necessary in a democracy, to safeguard the constitutional order. We are living through that moment in our history when higher principles must trump routine obligations, when saving the constitutional order must come before personal and professional niceties, when considerations of the present must not come in the way of discharging our responsibility towards the future. Failing to speak up would have been a dereliction of duty, especially for an officer of the court like myself.”
And pointed out his duty as a citizen of India, “My tweets were nothing but a small attempt to discharge what I considered to be my highest duty at this juncture in the history of our republic.”
Bhushan refused to cow down and quoted Mahatma Gandhi, “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 bonafide 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.”
“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 offence, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen,” he added.
Significantly, during the hearing, not only Attorney General KK Venugopal sided with Bhushan and said that the court should not punish him for his tweets, but SC also gave 2-3 days time to the senior lawyer to reconsider it and if he will apologize, the matter will be ended. However, Bhushan replied, “If your lordships want to give me time, I welcome. But I don’t think it will serve any useful purpose and it will be a waste of time of Court. It is not very likely that I will change my statement.”
Bhushan said that his statement was, “Well-considered and well thought of,” reported Live Law.
Meanwhile, when the Supreme Court’s virtual hearing was going on, protests (see the pictures) were taking place at many cities in India in opposition of Prashant Bhushan being considered guilty of contempt of court and about to be punished.