New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the submission of activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan that the arguments on quantum of sentence in the contempt proceedings in which he has been held guilty be heard by another top court bench.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra gave assurance to Bhushan that no punishment will be acted upon till his review against the order convicting him in the case will be decided.
The bench also comprising Justices B R Gavi and Krishna Murari told senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing Bhushan, that he is asking them to commit an “act of impropriety” by saying that argument on sentencing be heard by another bench.
At the outset, Dave sought deferment of hearing on the quantum of sentence in the case saying that he would be filing a review petition against the conviction order. The hearing in the matter is going on.
The top court on August 14 held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his 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.
During the hearing, on Thursday, Dave told the bench that heavens are not going to fall if the apex court will suspend the hearing on quantum of sentence.
You are asking us to commit an act of impropriety that arguments on sentencing should be heard by another bench , the bench said
It added: Has it been ever done that hearing on sentencing has been undertaken by the other bench when the main bench is existing?
The bench told Attorney General K K Venugopal that it will first hear Bhushan on the issue of sentencing. When Dave said that Venugopal should be allowed to argue first, the bench said, Don’t remind us of the professional norms.
Bhushan, who himself addressed the court, said that he has been grossly misunderstood .
I am dismayed and disappointed that the court did not find it necessary to provide me the copy of the contempt petition , he said. My tweets simply showed my bonafide belief .
Bhushan said that open criticism is necessary in a democracy to safeguard the constitutional order. My tweets were a small attempt to discharge what I consider my highest duty…”, he said.
“I do not ask for mercy. I do not appeal to magnanimity. I cheerfully submit to any punishment that the court may impose..,” said Bhushan.
On August 14, in its 108-page verdict, the top court had said: The tweets which are based on the distorted facts, in our considered view, amount to committing criminal contempt.
In the result, we hold alleged contemnor No.1 – Mr. Prashant Bhushan guilty of having committed criminal contempt of this Court .
The top court had, however, discharged the notice issued to Twitter Inc, California, USA in the contempt case after accepting its explanation that it is only an intermediary and does not have any control on what the users post on the platform.
It had said the company has also shown its bona fides immediately after the cognizance was taken by this Court as it has suspended both the tweets.
The top court had analysed the two tweets of Bhushan posted on the micro-blogging site on June 27 on the functioning of judiciary in past six years, and on July 22 with regard to Chief Justice of India S A Bobde.
“In our considered view, it cannot be said that the tweets can be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary, made bona fide in the public interest,” it had said.
Source : PTI