Civil rights lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan on Monday said he would “respectfully pay the fine” of Re.1 imposed on him by the Supreme Court for committing criminal contempt, but would “reserve the right to seek review of the conviction and sentencing, by way of an appropriate legal remedy”.
Mr. Bhushan was held guilty of contempt by the apex court on August 14 for two tweets about the Supreme Court’s role in the past six years and about Chief Justice S.A. Bobde.
On Monday, the court sentenced him to pay a fine of Re.1 by September 15 , failing which he would be punished with three months of simple imprisonment and a three-year ban on legal practice.
Addressing a press conference after the sentencing, Mr. Bhushan said he had already said in his statement to the court that he was there 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”.
“Therefore, while I reserve the right to seek a review of the conviction and sentencing, by way of an appropriate legal remedy, I propose to submit myself to this order and will respectfully pay the fine, just as I would have submitted to any other lawful punishment,” he said at the press conference organised by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform and Swaraj Abhiyan.
He said had always had the greatest respect for the Supreme Court, which he said was the last bastion of hope. He added that his tweets were not meant to disrespect the court or the judiciary, but were intended to express his anguish “at what I felt was a deviation from its sterling record”.
“The issue was never about me vs the Supreme Court, much less me vs any honorable judges. When the Supreme Court of India wins, every Indian wins. Every Indian wants a strong and independent judiciary. Obviously if the courts get weakened, it weakens the republic and it harms every Indian,” he said.
He said the case had become a watershed moment for freedom of speech. He thanked those who spoke in support of him as well as his legal team, senior advocates Rajeev Dhawan and Dushyant Dave in particular.