The advocate would also face three years’ legal practice ban by default if he fails to pay up
A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Arun Mishra on Monday punished civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan with a ₹1 fine for committing criminal contempt with his two tweets.
Mr. Bhushan, who was present at the sentence hearing held via video conference, has to pay the fine by September 15.
He will by default face three months’ simple imprisonment and a three-year ban on legal practice if he fails to pay by the stipulated date.
Justice Mishra, who read out the sentence judgment, said the court had on “not one, but several occasions” asked Mr. Bhushan to express regret for his tweets.
Mr. Bhushan also chose not to adhere to the insistence by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal to express regret for his conduct.
Also read: The Hindu Explains | What is contempt of court?
The court said Mr. Bhushan went on to share his statements in the court to the media, gave interviews in which he made remarks that further brought down the dignity of the court, all the while when the contempt case was pending in the court.
The court said it had considered the view of Mr. Venugopal to take into consideration the conduct and professional good done by Mr. Bhushan. It referred to how it had always shown restraint in criminal contempt cases in response to the plea made that it was an “unequal fight”.
During the hearings, Mr. Bhushan had refused to apologise in his two statements to the court. On August 14, he was convicted of scandalising the court with his tweets on a picture of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde astride a heavy bike and the role of the court in the past six years. The lawyer said the tweets were his bona fide opinions.
In the last hearing, the court had wondered about the resolve shown by Mr. Bhushan to not offer an apology in the face of contempt, saying “you have hurt someone, you must remove the hurt”.
“What is wrong in seeking apology? Is it a sin to apologise? Will that be a reflection of guilt? ‘Apology’ is a magical word which can heal. You will all go to the category of Mahatma Gandhi if you can apologise,” Justice Mishra had asked.
Mr. Venugopal had urged the court not to punish Mr. Bhushan. He said this was an opportunity for the court to enhance its greatness through its compassion.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, Mr. Bhushan’s lawyer, urged the court to not make his client a “martyr” by punishing him. What was needed was judicial statesmanship and not mercy, he said.
In his sentence hearing on August 20, Mr. Bhushan quoted the Mahatma saying he asked for neither mercy nor magnanimity from the court. Though the court gave him an opportunity to tender an “unconditional apology” by August 24, the senior lawyer, in his second statement to the court, said an insincere apology amounts to contempt of his conscience and to the institution he holds in high estee