The Supreme Court on Monday imposed a fine of Re 1 on lawyer Prashant Bhushan that must be paid by 15 September in the contempt case against him.
Failure to deposit the fine will lead to three-month jail term and debarment from law practice for three years, according to The Indian Express.
Justice Arun Mishra said that the court directly and indirectly persuaded Bhushan to express regret. This was not heeded to by him and he gave wide publicity to his statements, Mishra added, according to LiveLaw.
The top court had on 14 August held him guilty of contempt for his two tweets against the judiciary.
The top court had reserved its verdict on 25 August. During the hearing, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan had urged the top court to show “judicial statesmanship” and not make Bhushan a “martyr” by punishing him for contempt over his tweets on the judiciary, PTI reported.
The bench gave 30 minutes to Bhushan to “think over” his stand of not expressing regret over his tweets. The court had also granted time to Bhushan on 20 August to “reconsider his statement” after he refused to apologise for his tweets.
Dhavan, representing Bhushan, said that the order of 20 August giving time to Bhushan to apologise “gives the impression that Bhushan is being coerced to give an apology”. He added that an apology cannot be made to escape the clutches of law, LiveLaw reported. “An apology has to be sincere.”
In a statement during the 20 August hearing, Bhushan had said that “open criticism of any institution is necessary in any democracy to safeguard the constitutional order.”
“My tweets were nothing but a small attempt to discharge what I considered to be my highest duty at this juncture in the history of our republic,” he had added.
Bhushan had refused to apologise for his tweets, saying what he expressed represented his bona fide belief which he continued to hold. In his supplementary statement, he said that “an apology for expression of beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be insincere,” according to PTI.
After the 14 August order, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde toldHuffPost India’s Akshay Deshmane that the judgment will discourage lawyers from being outspoken and this cannot lead to a strong court.
Senior Supreme Court advocate Indira Jaising told HuffPost India’s Betwa Sharma that the top court’s verdict holding lawyer Bhushan in contempt of court was “bad news for free speech”.
(With PTI inputs)