Activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who has been convicted and fined for contempt of court by the Supreme Court, on Monday said that the conviction will not stop him from speaking up.
Speaking to Senior Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, Activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan said that the verdict might tweak his tweeting habits, but he won’t stop speaking up against what he thinks is wrong.
When asked what has he learnt from his contempt case experience, Prashant Bhushan said, “Maybe I will be a bit more careful or retrained in my tweets but I certainly have to speak my mind whenever I see that there is some injustice taking place or some institution is not working properly in the way that it was meant to function.”
“It is my duty to speak as an officer of the court. I have great respect for the court but it does not mean that it should not be pointed out when the court makes a mistake,” the senior lawyer said.
A Supreme Court-bench, led by Justice Arun Mishra, convicted Prashant Bhushan of contempt of court on the basis of two tweets against the judiciary.
After cajoling him to ask apology and even after given two deadlines and on seeing unyielding Bhushan who refused to ask apology , the bench on Monday ordered Prashant Bhushan to pay a fine of Re 1 or face a jail term of three months.
The senior lawyer has agreed to pay the fine but has said that he will file a review petition against the conviction.
“I am happy to suffer any punishment that they impose on me, of course, subject to my right to file a review or a writ petition.
One of the things is that the Supreme Court has said that against an original conviction by any court there should be at least one appeal. Since this is an original conviction by the Supreme Court, there should be either an intra-court appeal to a larger bench or a writ petition against this,” Prashant Bhushan said.
Prashant Bhushan, who has rejected the SC offer to apologise to escape punishment, said that conviction, as well as punishment, was unjust.
“This is a totally unjust judgment, not only the original judgment convicting me for contempt but also this judgment of the sentence. All the reasons for challenging it will be in my review or writ petition,” Prashant Bhushan told Rajdeep
The senior lawyer, however, dismissed the claims that the case had become a prestige issue between him and the court or judges.
“I can’t say if it was a prestige battle for Supreme Court judges or not, but for me, it was not a prestige battle.
I was just defending my tweets by pointing out that I have said what I really felt and what I really believed in.
I have great respect and regard for the court which is the last bastion for the common people of this country.
But whenever I will find that the court is deviating from its responsibility and its constitutional role, it is my duty as an officer of the court and as a citizen of this country to point it out. Which is what I did in my tweets,” Prashant Bhushan said.
On being asked if he is still sticking to the content of his original tweets slamming four chief justices, Prashant Bhushan said yes.
“I have said what I believed to be true. I believe that democracy has substantially eroded in the last six years.
I believe that the Supreme Court did play a role in allowing this erosion of democracy by not protecting the institutions or the rights of people when it was really its duty to do so to a substantial extent.
And I also believe that the last four chief justices did play a role in this,” Prashant Bhushan said.
One of the two controversial tweets by Prashant Bhushan had claimed that four previous chief justices have played a role in destroying democracy in India in the last six years.
The Supreme Court has said that statements like this end up eroding public confidence in the judiciary.
Despite being convicted in the case, Prashant Bhushan said that the case helped shed light on “what has happened to our democracy in the last six years”.
“One good outcome of this case could be that it has brought the spotlight on what has happened to our democracy in the last six years; what the role of the court has been;
what is this contempt of court, how it is used or sometimes abused; and what kind of judicial accountability do we need in the country; and it has brought the spotlight on the duty of the people to speak up before power,” the senior advocate said.