The Supreme Court on Friday held activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court. Prashant Bhushan was held guilty of contempt for his two derogatory tweets against the judiciary.
The quantum of punishment to be awarded to the advocate will be decided by the apex court after hearing arguments on August 20.
As per law, a person found guilty of contempt can be punished with simple imprisonment up to six months or fined up to Rs 2,000, or both.
Verdict reserved on August 5
The apex court had on August 5 reserved its verdict in the matter after Bhushan had defended his tweets. He said his tweets were against the judges regarding their conduct in their personal capacity. Bhushan contended that his tweets did not obstruct the administration of justice.
On July 22, the top court had issued a showcause notice to Bhushan after initiating the criminal contempt against him.
Activist’s tweets were derogatory
While referring to the tweets by Bhushan, the apex court had earlier said these statements are prima facie capable of “undermining the dignity and authority” of the institution of the Supreme Court in general and the office of Chief Justice of India in particular, in the eyes of the public at large.
Tweets were not against the institution
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Bhushan in the matter, had said, “The two tweets were not against the institution”.
Bhushan has made immense contributions to the development of jurisprudence, Dave had said. He had also said there are “at least 50 judgments to his credit”.
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Dave also submitted that the court has appreciated Bhushan’s contributions in cases like 2G scam, coal block allocation and in mining matters.
Referring to the ADM Jabalpur case on the suspension of fundamental rights during the Emergency, the senior advocate had said that even “extremely uncharitable” remarks against the judges were made and no contempt proceedings were made out.
Bhushan stood by his tweets
In a 142-page reply affidavit filed in the matter, Bhushan had stood by his two tweets. He had said the expression of opinion, “however outspoken, disagreeable or unpalatable to some”, cannot constitute contempt of court.
Bhushan, in the affidavit, has referred to several apex court judgments, speeches of former and serving judges on contempt of court, and the “stifling of dissent” in a democracy and his views on judicial actions in some cases.
Preventing citizens from demanding accountability and reforms and advocating for the same by generating public opinion is not a ”reasonable restriction”, the lawyer had said. He had argued that Article 129 cannot be pressed into service to stifle bonafide criticism.
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