The Supreme Court on Monday imposed a token fine of Re 1 against activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan in the contempt for his tweet criticizing Chief Justice of India SA Bobde. If he doesn’t pay the fine by September 15, he can face jail for three months and a ban from practicing for three years.
The bench, comprising Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai, and Krishna Murari, directed the lawyer to deposit the amount.
“The freedom of speech cannot be curtailed but rights of others need to be respected,” the court observed, PTI reported.
Bhushan’s tweets were based on distorted facts and have the effect of destabilizing the foundation of the judiciary, the court had added.
Taking to Twitter, Bhushan said: “My lawyer and senior colleague Rajiv Dhavan contributed Re 1 immediately after the contempt judgment today which I gratefully accepted.”
The court had on August 14 held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt of court and stated that the allegations leveled in the tweets against the court and CJI are malicious and have the tendency to scandalize the court.
The bench also noted that the statements of Bhushan submitted in the court were released to the media before they were taken on record.
On August 14, the apex court had held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his two derogatory tweets against the judiciary and maintained they cannot be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary made
The court was referring to Prashant Bhushan’s statement refusing to retract his comments or apologies, saying he considered it the discharge of his “highest duty” and apologizing would be contempt of his conscience and the court. Mr. Bhushan had also said that open criticism was necessary to “safeguard the democracy and its values.”
The court said while criticism is welcome, one should not “attribute motives to judges” since they cannot go to the press to the press to defend themselves and “can only speak through judgment’s”.