Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan on Monday reiterated he would not apologise for controversial tweets on the higher judiciary that resulted in him being found guilty of contempt of court.
The Supreme Court had on August 20 granted him time till Monday to reconsider his statements on the judiciary as it heard arguments related to his quantum of punishment.
Bhushan issued a supplementary statement on Monday, which was the day the court set for him to reply. In the statement, Bhushan affirmed his respect for the Supreme Court, which he called “the last bastion of hope for protection of fundamental rights… and indeed for constitutional democracy itself”.
Bhushan noted it was his “duty” as an “officer of this court” to speak up when “I believe there is a deviation 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…,” Bhushan wrote.
He argued, “My tweets represented this bona fide belief I continue to hold… an apology for expression of these beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be insincere… 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”.
Earlier this month, Bhushan had been convicted for contempt of court over tweets alleging corruption in the higher judiciary.
During the sentencing hearing in the case against Prashant Bhushan on August 20, the Supreme Court had granted him time till Monday to reconsider his “defiant statement” refusing to apologise and tender “unconditional apology” for contemptuous tweets against the judiciary. The three-justice bench of the Supreme Court—led by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari—had rejected a plea from Prashant Bhushan to transfer the sentencing hearing to another bench.
Bhushan had said on August 20 itself that he did not want more time. “I did not tweet in a fit of absent 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 bona fide belief,” he said.
However, the Supreme Court bench insisted he reconsider. The bench said that it can be very lenient if there is realisation of mistake. The Supreme Court had said, “We have given time to the contemnor (Bhushan) to submit unconditional apology, if he so desires. Let it be filed by August 24. In case, apology is submitted, the case to be posted for consideration on the same, on August 25.”
Prashant Bhushan faces simple imprisonment of up to six months or with a fine of up to Rs 2,000 or with both as punishment. However, numerous activists and political figures as well as the attorney general, who represents the Centre, have asked the Supreme Court to show leniency to Prashant Bhushan.