Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, held guilty of contempt for his tweets against the judiciary, refused to offer an apology to the Supreme Court on Monday, saying what he expressed represented his bona fide belief.
An insincere apology would amount to the ‘contempt of my conscience and of an institution’, Bhushan said in his supplementary statement filed in the suo motu contempt case, which was initiated against him by the top court after taking note of advocate Anuj Saxena’s complaint.
An apology for expression of beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be insincere, Bhushan said.
On 20 August, the top court had granted time till 24 August to Bhushan to reconsider his “defiant statement” refusing to apologise and tender “unconditional apology” for contemptuous tweets against the judiciary and rejected his submission that quantum of punishment be decided by another bench.
The apex court will consider his supplementary statement on Tuesday, reported The Leaflet.
Supreme Court to consider tomorrow the effect of Prashant Bhushan’s supplementary statement filed today refusing to apologise for his two tweets for which he has been convicted for criminal contempt. #PrashantBhushan #contemptofcourt pic.twitter.com/bbej6eOGdN
— The Leaflet (@TheLeaflet_in) August 24, 2020
In his statement, Bhushan said as an officer of court he believes it a duty to speak up when 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 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, “My tweets represented this bona fide 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.”
Bhushan further said that an apology cannot be a mere incantation and an apology has to, as the court has itself put it, be sincerely made.
“This is especially so when I have made the statements bona fide 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 the highest esteem,” he said.
Bhushan said he believes 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 untrammelled rule of the executive,” he said.
The activist-lawyer said that he has never stood on ceremony when it comes to offering an apology for any mistake or wrongdoing on his part and it has been a privilege for him 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,” he said.
Bhushan in his two-page supplementary statement said that it is “with deep regret” that he read the 20 August order of this court as at the hearing the court had asked him to take 2-3 days to reconsider the statement he made in the court.
“However, the order subsequently states: We have given time to the contemnor to submit an unconditional apology, if he so desires,” he said.
The apex court on 14 August had held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his two derogatory tweets against the judiciary saying they cannot be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary made in the public interest.
He faces simple imprisonment of up to six months or with a fine of up to Rs 2,000 or with both as punishment.
On August 20, the top court, while reserving its verdict on the quantum of sentence to be awarded to Bhushan in the case, also rejected his submission seeking deferment of the hearing till his yet-to-be-filed review plea against its verdict, which held him guilty of contempt of the court, is decided.
The top court had said that it would hear the matter on 25 August for considering the “unconditional apology” if filed by Bhushan.
Reminding Bhushan of ‘lakshman rekha’, the top court had asked as to why it has been crossed and observed that it has been asked to commit an act of “impropriety” by sending the case to some other bench for hearing the arguments on quantum of sentence in the contempt case.
“We can give you time and it is better if you (Bhushan) reconsider it. Think over it. We will give you two-three days’ time,” the top court had told Bhushan, who held his ground by refusing to apologise for the tweets.
“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 bona fide belief,” Bhushan had said.
With inputs from PTI