New Delhi: Advocate Prashant Bhushan on Monday filed a review petition in the Supreme Court, challenging its verdict convicting him for criminal contempt of court by making derogatory statements against the judiciary through tweets.
On September 12, Bhushan had moved a plea filed in the apex court seeking a right of appeal against his conviction, to be heard by a larger and a different bench. The top court had imposed a token penalty of Re 1 on Bhushan, which he deposited in the court on Monday.
Addressing the media, Bhushan said that paying the fine does not mean he had accepted the verdict and he would file a review plea to contest his conviction.
Bhushan has, in his plea, argued that tweet number 2 tends to convey an impression that “the judges who have presided in the Supreme Court in the period of last six years have a particular role in the destruction of Indian democracy and the last four CJIs had a more particular role in it.”
“This might well be the impression that the tweet in question seeks to convey, but the Court doesn’t, in fact, show, or even attempt to show, how the holding of this opinion constitutes contempt of court. This is an error apparent on the face of the judgment,” said Bhushan in the 444-page review petition.
On August 31, a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, who retired on September 2, had said: “We, therefore, sentence the contemnor (Bhushan) with a fine of Re 1 to be deposited with the Registry of this Court by September 15, failing which he shall undergo a simple imprisonment for a period of three months and further be debarred from practising in this Court for a period of three years.”
Bhushan insisted the court erroneously held him guilty of contempt, as the fair criticism of a judge and the judiciary is protected by Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution.
He argued that contempt proceedings should not have been heard by a bench comprising Justice Mishra. “That on several occasions, Justice Arun Mishra has orally accused the review petitioner of committing contempt of court when he had merely mentioned that it may be inappropriate for a particular judge to hear a particular case in circumstances where conflict of interest was involved,” said the review plea.
Bhushan urged the apex court to rehear the verdict which held him guilty of contempt and also grant an oral hearing in the open court, as the facts and circumstances of the case so necessitated.
“The impugned judgment has erred in concluding that the tweets are based on ‘distorted facts’, because, by its own admission, it has pointedly refused to go into the legitimacy and the veracity of the statements made in Tweet No. 2. It is submitted that this inconsistency is writ large on the face of the record,” Bhushan contended in the plea.
The top court considered that Bhushan’s second tweet on judiciary undermines the dignity and authority of the institution of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of India and directly affronts the majesty of law and is therefore contumacious.
Bhushan, however, argued that, “in fact, a facet of any test has to determine what constitutes criminal contempt, and in holding Tweet No. 2 as contumacious because it has undermined the dignity of the court or because it has affronted the majesty of law, the impugned judgment has clearly erred.”