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Attorney General's Presence Not Recorded In SC Order Granting Time To Prashant Bhushan To Tender Apology

20 Aug 2020 4:02 PM GMT
Attorney Generals Presence Not Recorded In SC Order Granting Time To Prashant Bhushan To Tender Apology
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The Supreme Court on Thursday granted time till August 24 for Advocate Prashant Bhushan to tender "unconditional apology", if he desires, in the contempt case.

Curiously, the order uploaded in the Supreme Court website in the evening does not record the presence of Attorney General, K K Venugopal.

This is despite the fact that the AG was present throughout the two and a half hours long hearing on the sentence in the contempt case, and had even made submissions.

It may be noted that the order passed by the Court on August 5, while reserving judgment in the contempt case, had recorded the presence of Attorney General.

During the hearing, Justice Arun Mishra, the presiding judge of the bench, had consulted the AG as to whether time should be granted to Bhushan to "think over" and "reconsider" the statement made by him before the Court justifying his tweets and expressing dismay at the verdict pronouncing him guilty.

The AG agreed that he should be given time.

The Attorney General also requested the bench to not punish Bhushan, considering the "tremendous public good" done by him. But the bench did not indulge the top law officer further on this aspect by saying it was not considering the merits of the matter.

At the end of the hearing, the AG attempted to submit that several former judges have opined that the Supreme Court has failed democracy and that there was corruption in higher judiciary. However, the bench interrupted him and said that the merits of the matter were not under consideration.

"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".

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.

During the beginning of the hearing on Thursday, Senior Advocates Dushyant Dave and Rajeev Dhavan, repeatedly said that the Attorney General had been waiting in the case and urged the bench to hear him.

Justice Mishra said that the Court was aware that it had issued notice to the AG and need not be reminded about that.

The SC order states that if Bhushan tenders unconditional apology by August 24, the bench will consider it on August 25.

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.  

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.

Update : On Friday, SC issued a revised order recording the presence of AG in the case.

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