The Attorney General for India, K K Venugopal, on Thursday requested the Supreme Court to not punish Advocate Prashant Bhushan in the contempt case.
The AG made this significant submission before a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari, which was hearing on the sentence in the contempt verdict against Bhushan.
"I request your lordships not to punish him (Bhushan)", AG said.
The Attorney General added that Bhushan has done a "tremendous amount of public good".
However, Justice Mishra replied that the suggestion of AG cannot be accepted unless Bhushan reconsiders the statement made by him before the Court. The bench also said that it did not want to hear the AG on the merits of the matter. Though the court had issued notice to the AG in the contempt case, seeking his assistance in the matter, it chose not to hear him during the hearing of the case. The verdict holding Bhushan guilty of contempt was thus pronounced without hearing the AG.
The bench, however, agreed that Bhushan has fought a lot of good cases of public interest pro bono, and that will be a factor which will weigh with it while considering the sentence. At the same time, the bench said that the good things cannot neutralize the bad things and that the "lakhsman-rekha" cannot be crossed.
During the beginning phase of the hearing today, Bhushan made a statement before the Court, expressing dismay at the Court pronouncing him guilty for two tweets.
"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. 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.", Bhushan said.
The bench was not appreciative of the statement and asked Bhushan if he would like to reconsider it. The bench also asked Attorney General about granting time to Bhushan to reconsider the statement. AG agreed that time can be given to him.
However, Bhushan stood by the statement and said that it was "well considered and well thought of". He said that granting time "will not serve any purpose" as "it was unlikely" that he will change it.
Nevertheless, the bench said that it will give him two or three days for him to reconsider the statement. The bench proceeding to hear Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan on behalf of Bhushan with respect to legal submissions regarding the sentence.
Justice Mishra remarked that the Court will have to consider if Bhushan's statement was "a defence or an aggravation".
"When it comes to sentencing, we can be lenient only when the person tenders apology and realizes the mistake in the real sense", the judge said.
The fact that you are doing many good things does not mean that your wrongs can be neutralized: Justice Mishra. #PrashantBhushan #Bhushan @pbhushan1— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) August 20, 2020
The fact that you are doing many good things does not mean that your wrongs can be neutralized: Justice Mishra. #PrashantBhushan #Bhushan @pbhushan1
Towards the end of the hearing, the Attorney General attempted to make a submission.
He submitted that he has a list of five judges of SC saying that democracy has failed in Supreme Court.
He added that he has extracts from statements of retired judges that there was corruption in higher judiciary.
If five judges of this court have held that democracy has failed..." - before AG could complete this sentence, Justice Mishra interfered and said "we are not hearing on merits, Mr. Attorney".
"If five judges of this court have held that democracy has failed...", AG says. Justice Mishra interferes before AG completes and says "we are not hearing on merits, Mr. Attorney".#PrashantBhushan #Bhushan @pbhushan1— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) August 20, 2020
"If five judges of this court have held that democracy has failed...", AG says. Justice Mishra interferes before AG completes and says "we are not hearing on merits, Mr. Attorney".#PrashantBhushan #Bhushan @pbhushan1
Complete updates from the hearing may be read here.