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[Contempt] "I Do Not Ask For Mercy, I Do Not Appeal to Magnanimity, I am Here To Cheerfully Submit to Any Penalty": Prashant Bhushan Tells SC Quoting Gandhiji

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
20 Aug 2020 6:39 AM GMT
[Contempt] I Do Not Ask For Mercy, I Do Not Appeal to Magnanimity, I am Here To Cheerfully Submit to Any Penalty: Prashant Bhushan Tells SC Quoting Gandhiji
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"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."
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Advocate Prashant Bhushan made a statement before the Supreme Court expressing his dismay at being held guilty of contempt, despite his efforts to uphold the majesty of the Court, "at some personal and professional cost".

"I have gone through the judgment of this Hon'ble Court. 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. I am pained, not because I may be punished, but because I have been grossly misunderstood," he said.

Expressing "shock" over his conviction order, Bhushan said that the Court had arrived at an adverse finding, sans any evidence of his motives to launch such an attack.

He said that he is disappointed at the manner in which his case was conducted, without serving him with a copy of the complaint on the basis of which the suo motu notice was issued. He is also distressed at the fact that the Supreme Court did not find it necessary to respond to the specific averments made by him in his reply affidavit.

'Comments Were Not Out Of Malice; But Out Of Love & Affection For Court', Says Bhushan As SC Reserves Orders On Contempt Case

He has reiterated that his remarks (on Twitter) were "bonafide", and in discharge of his duty as an officer of the Court.

He read out the statement before a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari,

"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."



He has also emphasized on the need to allow "fair criticism" in a democracy, to safeguard the "constitutional order". He said,

"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. Indeed, public scrutiny is desirable for healthy functioning of 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."



Several lawyers in India expressed their dismay at the Supreme Court verdict, and issued public statements and held demonstrations expressing solidarity with Bhushan. Over 2000 lawyers, including noted Senior Advocates, have endorsed the statement of support for Bhushan.

The Executive Committee of the Bar Association of India also expressed its dismay at the Supreme Court verdict.

Bodies like Bar Association of India, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) have also criticized the verdict against Bhushan.

Background

On August 14, the Supreme Court held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for tweeting against the judiciary. One tweet, made in reference to a picture of CJI Bobde seated on a Harley Davidson bike, alleged that the CJI was enjoying expensive bike rides while keeping the Supreme Court under lockdown.

Another tweet alleged that the Supreme Court contributed to the destruction of democracy in the last six years, and the last 4 CJIs played a particular role in that.

The Court held that the tweets were based on "distorted facts" and had the effect of undermining the authority and dignity of the court.

"The tweet has the effect of destabilising the very foundation of this important pillar of the Indian democracy...There is no manner of doubt, that the tweet tends to shake the public confidence in the institution of judiciary", observed a bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari in the judgment.

The Supreme Court is hearing him on sentence today. The Court will also hear Mr. Bhushan's plea for deferment of the hearing on his sentencing as he shall file a review petition against the SC judgment.

Live Updates from today's Court proceedings may be accessed here.

Read Full Statement

"I have gone through the judgment of this Hon'ble Court. 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. 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.

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. Indeed, public scrutiny is desirable for healthy functioning of 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.

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."

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