Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan said on August 31 that while he will pay the Re 1 fine imposed on him by the Supreme Court in the suo motu contempt case, he will consider resorting to appropriate legal remedies such as filing a review petition.
"…..Therefore, while I reserve the right to seek a review of the conviction and sentencing, by way of an appropriate legal remedy, I propose to submit myself to this order and will respectfully pat the fine, just as I would have submitted to any other lawful punishment," Bhushan said at a press conference after the SC verdict earlier today.
In its verdict, the Supreme Court imposed a token fine of Re 1 on Bhushan for criminal contempt of court for his tweets against the apex court and Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde. If Bhushan fails to pay the penalty by September 15, he could either face jail for three months or a ban from practicing for three years, a three-judge bench said.
"In a number cases, SC has said that at least one review appeal against a criminal conviction order was a right of a citizen. Today's is the original order of SC and there is no appeal provided against this. So it is not necessary that there will be a review. We can even file a writ petition. But clearly the decision cannot be taken before September 15. So I will pay Re 1, but subject, under protest so to say, the right of any legal remedy whether it is review or any other," Bhushan said responding to questions on August 31.
The top court had on August 25 reserved its verdict on the sentence after Bhushan filed a supplementary statement before it and refused to apologise in the contempt proceedings against him.
During the hearing on August 25, the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra gave Bhushan around 30 minutes to "think over" and reconsider his stand in the matter. Meanwhile, Attorney General KK Venugopal had urged the court to take a "compassionate view". In his supplementary statement, Bhushan had said that his tweets represent his "bonafide belief" which he continues 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," Bhushan had said.
At the press conference, Bhushan was accompanied by Swaraj Abhiyan president Yogendra Yadav and Anjali Bhardwaj of the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR). Bhushan is the convenor of CJAR.
"I have had the greatest respect for the institution of the Supreme Court. I have always believed it to be the last bastion of hope, particularly for the weak and the oppressed who knock at its door for the protection of their rights, often against a powerful executive. My tweets were not intended in any way to disrespect the Supreme Court or the judiciary as a whole, but were merely meant to express my anguish, at what I felt, was a deviation from its sterling past record," Bhushan said, insisting that the issue was never about him versus the honourable judges and much less about him versus the Supreme Court.
"When the Supreme Court of India wins, every Indian wins. Every Indian wants a strong and independent judiciary. Obviously if the courts get weakened, it weakens the republic and harms every citizen," he said.
He said he was extremely grateful and humbled by the solidarity and support expressed by countless persons, ex-judges, lawyers, activists and fellow citizens who encouraged him to remain firm and true to his beliefs and conscience.
"They strengthen my hope that this trial may draw the country's attention to the cause of freedom of speech and judicial accountability and reform. What is very heartening is that this case has become a watershed moment for freedom of speech and seems to have encouraged many people to stand up and speak out against the injustices in our society," he said.
"I would be failing in my duty if I do not thank my legal team, especially senior advocates Dr Rajeev Dhawan and Dushyant Dave. I am more confident now than ever before that truth shall prevail. Long live democracy! Satyameva Jayate," he concluded.