The Supreme Court on Monday imposed a fine of Re 1 on activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan for criminal contempt of court for his tweets against the Apex court and Chief Justice of India (CJI).
The Supreme court Said said that if Bhushan fails to deposit the amount by September 15, he will have to undergo simple imprisonment for three months and will be barred from practising for three years.
The Court, from the very beginning, 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.
On 14/08/2020 in SUO MOTU CONTEMPT PETITION (CRL.) NO.1 OF 2020 Supreme Court held advocate Prashant Bhushan for Criminal contempt of Supreme Court by saying, “The tweets which are based on the distorted facts, in our considered view, amount to committing of ‘criminal contempt’.
The three Judges Bench held, “in our considered view, the act committed by the contemnor is a very serious one. He has attempted to denigrate the reputation of the institution of administration of justice of which he himself is a part. At the cost of repetition, we have to state that the faith of the citizens of the country in the institution of justice is the foundation for rule of law which is an essential factor in the democratic setup.
Shri K.K. Venugopal, learned Attorney General for India, Dr. Rajeev Dhavan, Shri Dushyant Dave, Shri C.U. Singh, learned senior counsel, and the contemnorShri Prashant Bhushan.
The operative part of the Judgment said:
“We, therefore, sentence the contemnor with a fine or Re.1/ (Rupee one) to be deposited with the Registry of this Court by 15.09.2020, failing which he shall undergo a simple imprisonment for a period of three months and further be debarred from practising in this Court for a period of three years”[para 93]
Reason for Imposing Punishment
“We have given deep thought as to what sentence should be imposed on the contemnor. The conduct of the present contemnor also needs to be taken into consideration. This Court in Tehseen Poonawala (supra) has observed that the said matter was a fit matter wherein criminal contempt proceedings were required to be initiated. However, the court stopped at doing so observing that it would have been an unequal fight. The learned Attorney General had also initiated contempt proceedings against the present contemnor, however, on the contemnor submitting regret, the learned Attorney General sought withdrawal of the said proceedings. However, the said proceedings are still pending. In the present matter also not on one occasion but on several occasions, we not only gave opportunity but also directly or indirectly pursuaded the contemnor to express regret. Not only that the learned Attorney General had also suggested that it was in the fitness of things that a contemnor expresses regret and withdraws the allegation made in the affidavit in reply, which request was not heeded to by the contemnor. The contemnor not only gave wide publicity to the second statement submitted before this Court on 24.08.2020 prior to the same being tendered to the Court, but also gave various interviews with regard to sub judice matter, thereby further attempting to bring down the reputation of this Court. 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 puishment, we are sentencing the contemnor with a nominal fine of Re.1/ (Rupee one). [para 92]