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Prashant Bhushan Contempt: SC To Consider Tomorrow 'Effect Of Supplementary Statement'

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
24 Aug 2020 1:37 PM GMT
Prashant Bhushan Contempt: SC To Consider Tomorrow Effect Of Supplementary Statement
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The Supreme Court will consider tomorrow the 'effect of the supplementary statement' filed by Advocate Prashant Bhushan whereby he refused to tender apology in the contempt case and reaffirmed that his tweets were 'constructive criticism'.

On the last day for tendering an apology, Bhushan filed a statement in SC today stating that an apology would be a "contempt of his conscience".

He stressed that as an officer of the court, he has a duty to "speak up" when he believes that the Judicial institution is deviating from its sterling record.

"Therefore I expressed myself in good faith, not to malign the Supreme Court or any particular Chief Justice, but to offer constructive criticism so that the court can arrest any drift away from its long-standing role as a guardian of the Constitution and custodian of peoples' rights," he said.

He said that he made bonafide remarks with full details. However, the same has "not been dealt with by the Court". Thus, declining to tender an apology Bhushan said,

"My tweets represented this bonafide belief that I continue to hold. Public expression of these beliefs was I believe, in line with my higher obligations as a citizen and a loyal officer of this court. Therefore, an apology for expression of these beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be insincere."

He stressed that an apology cannot be a "mere incantation" but has to be made sincerely.

"This is especially so when I have made the statements bonafide and pleaded truths with full details, which have not been dealt with by the Court. If I retract a statement before this court that I otherwise believe to be true or offer an insincere apology, that in my eyes would amount to the contempt of my conscience and of an institution that I hold in highest esteem," the affidavit filed through Advocate Kamini Jaiswal read.

He added,

"I believe that the Supreme Court is the last bastion of hope for the protection of fundamental rights, the watchdog institutions and indeed for constitutional democracy itself. It has rightly been called the most powerful court in the democratic world, and often an exemplar for courts across the globe. Today in these troubling times, the hopes of the people of India vest in this Court to ensure the rule of law and the Constitution and not an untrammeled rule of the executive."

He said he read the SC order dated August 20 where he was asked to reconsider his statements with "deep regret" and responded thus

"I have never stood on ceremony when it comes to offering an apology for any mistake or wrongdoing on my part. It has been a privilege for me to have served this institution and bring several important public interest causes before it. I live with the realization that I have received from this institution much more than I have had the opportunity to give it. I cannot but have the highest regard for the institution of the Supreme Court."

On August 14, a 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court had held Bhushan guilty of contempt of court for his tweets against the SC and the Chief Justices of India.

During the hearing on the sentence held on August 20, Bhushan affirmed his comments and made a statement justifying his comments and expressed dismay at the Court verdict.

"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, and posted the matter for hearing on August 25.

Speaking at a Facebook Live session organized by the Students Federation of India on the topic "Decoding Democracy" on Saturday, Bhushan stressed on the need to speak truth to power and said that one should be prepared even to go to jail for that.

"We are at a difficulty juncture of history. We have to understand the worst assault that our Republic has ever seen on every value of the Constitution. Every institution set up the Constitution is under attack. We need to resist that. There is a concerted attempt to convert India into a Hindu State. There is an attempt to prevent people from speaking up. We need to resist that. We need to speak out. We need to speak truth to power. And, in that process, if they try and victimize us, they try and jail us, we should be prepared to suffer that. If we are not prepared for that today or tomorrow, then there will be nothing left to fight for", Bhushan said.

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