Convicted of contempt for his tweets , civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan read out a short statement in the Supreme Court that he has served it for three decades not as a courtier or a cheerleader but as a humble guard of its majesty.
“Failing to speak up would have been a dereliction of duty, especially for an officer of the court like myself... We are living through that moment in our history when higher principles must trump routine obligations, when saving the constitutional order must come before personal and professional niceties, when considerations of the present must not come in the way of discharging our responsibility towards the future,” Mr. Bhushan told a three-judge Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra during a sentence hearing via video conferencing on Thursday.
Mr. Bhushan, in an emotionally charged voice, said “I am pained not because I may be punished, but because I have been grossly misunderstood”.
He conveyed his shock at being found guilty of mounting a “malicious and scurrilous” attack by the very court he had served at some professional and personal cost.
But he refused to apologise for his tweets. In fact, he said it would be contemptuous and insincere on his part to apologise.
“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. I did not tweet in a fit of absent-mindedness. It would be insincere and contemptuous on my part to offer an apology for the tweets that expressed what was and continues to be my bonafide belief,” he stated in court.
The lawyer read out the words of Mahatma Gandhi in the Young India sedition trial or ‘The Great Trial of 1922,’ as it is commonly known: “I do not ask for mercy. I do not appeal to magnanimity. I am here, therefore, to cheerfully submit to any penalty that can lawfully be inflicted upon me for what the Court has determined to be an offence, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen.”
Mr. Bhushan conveyed his disappointment to the court for not even sharing a copy of the complaint over which the contempt action was taken against him. He said he was dismayed that the court did not provide any evidence of his motives.
He said he found it hard to believe the court’s version that two of his tweets destabilised the very foundation of Indian democracy.
“Public scrutiny is desirable for healthy functioning of judiciary itself. I believe that open criticism of any institution is necessary in a democracy, to safeguard the constitutional order,” Mr. Bhushan said.