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[Breaking] 'My Statements Are Well Considered And Well Thought Of': Prashant Bhushan Declines SC's Offer For Time To Reconsider Statement

Akshita Saxena
20 Aug 2020 8:21 AM GMT
[Breaking] My Statements Are Well Considered And Well Thought Of: Prashant Bhushan Declines SCs Offer For Time To Reconsider Statement
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Advocate Prashant Bhushan on Thursday declined the Supreme Court's offer for time to reconsider the statement made by him in the Court justifying his tweets and expressing dismay at the contempt verdict.

During hearing on sentence today before a bench led by Justice Arun Mishra, Bhushan submitted that his statements were "well-considered and well thought of". He said that he did not wish to reconsider his statements and that giving him more time to think upon it would serve no useful purpose.

"I don't want to reconsider the statement. As regards giving time, I don't think it will serve any useful purpose", he said.

The remarks were made after Justice Mishra offered to give an opportunity to Mr. Bhushan to think over his statements and come back after 2-3 days.

After Justice Mishra reiterated that the Court was giving him time to think over, Bhushan replied :

"If your lordships want to give me time, I welcome. But I don't think it will serve any useful purpose and it will be a waste of time of Court. It is not very likely that I will change my statement".

"We will give you two-three days time. Think over. You must think over. We should not give verdict right now", Justice Mishra replied.

The development occurred after Prashant Bhushan made a statement during today's hearing on sentence 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".

"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 said.

Affirming that he stood by his tweets, Bhushan said 

"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."

Senior Advocate Rajiv Dhavan, who appeared for Bhushan, highlighted that the "nature of the person (contemnor)" should also be taken into consideration, during sentencing.

Two factors are important for sentence, he submitted: 1. Nature of offence and 2. Nature of person/ contemnor

He emphasized that the character and contributions of Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had undertaken numerous pro bono cases in his career to bring about judicial reforms and ensure access to courts must be taken into account for the purpose of the sentence.

"These proceedings have attracted more attention than the original tweets themselves, which are transitory," Dhavan submitted.

He added that the Court must consider the nature of Mr. Bhushan and assess, whether he was attacking the court or is criticizing it for improving the administration of justice.

On this note, he referred to Section 13 of the Contempt of Courts Act, clause (a) whereof prescribes that no court shall impose a sentence under this Act for a contempt of court unless it is satisfied that the contempt is of such a nature that it substantially interferes, or tends substantially to interfere with the due course of justice.

Dhavan emphasized that under the contempt law, it is not enough for the court to say that the remarks are "scurrilous". The Court has to state that the comments have "substantially interfered with the administration justice".

"It is not enough that there should be some technical contempt. It must be shown that that the act of contempt must substantially interfere with the administration of justice," Dhavan argued.

Elaborating further on the submission that "nature of the contemnor" must be taken into account, Dhavan took exception to replication of the observations made in the case of Vijay Kurle, in Bhushan's conviction order.

He said that the Vijay Kurle case was "nasty" whereas, the character and conduct of Mr. Bhushan were indicative of his bonafides.

Based on these submissions, Justice Mishra was prompted to note the "impressive list" of cases taken up by Mr. Bhushan pro bono, and he consulted with the Attorney General if Mr. Bhushan should be given time to think over the matter once again.

As the AG agreed with the Court's suggestion, Justice Gavai enquired with Mr. Bhushan if he should be granted some more time, to which he declined.


[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

However the Bench clarified that it shall not consider the proposal of not punishing Mr. Bhsuan unless he rethinks his statements. Justice Mishra said that the bench will have to consider if Bhushan's statement was a 'defence or an aggravation'.

"When we hear on sentence, on the point of bona fides, the person must realize that he has made some mistake. That realization must come from the person," Justice Mishra said.

"We do not enjoy punishing individuals. The purpose of sentence, for me, is deterrence. Mistakes can be committed by anyone. In such a case, person must realize that and admit to it.

When it comes to sentencing, we can be lenient only when the person tenders apology and realizes the mistake in the real sense… The fact that you are doing many good things does not mean that your wrongs can be neutralized," he added.

The thread on detailed Court arguments may be read here.

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