The Supreme Court on Thursday gave four days to Prashant Bhushan to reconsider his statement in the contempt case against him even as the defiant activist-lawyer said he wasn’t asking for mercy.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, which had convicted Bhushan of contempt of court on August 14 for his tweets against CJI SA Bobde and the last four CJIs, rejected Bhushan’s plea to defer arguments on the sentence.
It was not impressed by senior counsel Dushyant Dave’s argument on Bhushan’s behalf that “heavens are not going to fall if the hearing on quantum of sentence is deferred”.
The Bench also turned down his request for arguments on the sentence to be heard by another Bench. It would be “act of impropriety”, the Bench told Dave.
However, it said the punishment would not be acted upon until his petition seeking review of the August 14 order convicting him of contempt of court was decided.
Attorney General KK Venugopal requested the top court not to punish Bhushan for contempt of court. “It would be tremendously good if Bhushan is given some time,” Venugopal said.
However, Bhushan said his statement was well thought-out. “It’s unlikely there will be substantial change in my statement,” Bhushan said. “We can give you time… and it is better if you consider it… we will give you two or three days,” the Bench told Bhushan.
Justice Mishra, due to retire next month, said, “In my judicial career, I have never held anyone guilty of contempt.” The Bench said it could be very lenient if Bhushan realised his mistake.
Earlier, Bhushan read out his 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 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… 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. 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 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.”