New Delhi: Asserting his right to file a review petition, advocate Prashant Bhushan has filed an application before the Supreme Court seeking deferment of the sentence hearing in his contempt case. The hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow, August 20.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari, had, on August 14, held Bhushan guilty of contempt of court for two tweets.
According to a copy of his application, published by LiveLaw and filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal, Bhushan has undertaken to file the review within 30 days of the verdict. Even if the sentencing is not deferred, Bhushan application requests for a stay on the sentence till the review is decided.
Bhushan’s application notes that in the case of suo motu proceedings – the contempt case was taken up suo motu by the court after a complaint filed by lawyer Mahek Maheshwari – the Supreme Court acts as the “court of first instance” and there is thus no option to appeal against its judgment other than to file a review.
The application mentions that in criminal contempt proceedings, the Supreme Court, functions both as a trial court and also as the last court.
“Section 19(1) gives a statutory right of appeal to a person found guilty of contempt by the High Court. The fact that there is no appeal against an order of this Hon’ble Court makes it doubly necessary that it takes the utmost precaution to ensure that justice is not only done but seen to be done…,” noted the application, as quoted by LiveLaw.
Recourse to appeal, the application says, would be in consonance with “the right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” which guarantees protection of life and personal liberty, and equality before the law.
Retired Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph in a statement questioning how the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court handled questions on contempt of court, had also raised the right to appeal.
“Under Section 19 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, an intra-court appeal is provided where the order is passed by the single Judge of the High Court and in case it is by the Division Bench, appeal lies to the Supreme Court of India. This safeguard is provided probably to avoid even the remotest possibility of miscarriage of justice.
“Should there not be such a safeguard in the other Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of India also, when there is a conviction in a suo-motu criminal contempt case?”
More than 3,000 people, including 12 former judges, have signed statements extending solidarity and support to Bhushan, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s verdict.