Apologising Will Be 'Contempt to My Conscience', Prashant Bhushan Tells SC

The bench had given Bhushan a few days to reconsider his tweets for which he was held in contempt and apologise.

New Delhi: Advocate and rights activist Prashant Bhushan has told the Supreme Court that he will not be apologising for remarks he made which the court held him in contempt for. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari, on August 14, had said that two of Bhushan’s tweets about the judiciary were contemptuous.

In a supplementary affidavit filed on Monday, Bhushan told the court, “My tweets represented this bonafide belief that I continue to hold. Public expression of these beliefs was I believe, in line with my higher obligations as a citizen and a loyal officer of this court. Therefore, an apology for expression of these beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be insincere. …If I retract a statement before this court that I otherwise believe to be true or offer an insincere apology, that in my eyes would amount to the contempt of my conscience and of an institution that I hold in highest esteem.”

At the sentencing hearing on August 20, the bench had given Bhushan a few days to reconsider his statements and apologise, and listed the matter for August 25. Bhushan had said then too that he did not need more time, as he was unlikely to change his mind and stood by his beliefs. He reiterated on Monday that his statements were made in good faith and as “constructive criticism”, and that he has utmost respect for the apex court as an institution.

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“I believe that the Supreme Court is the last bastion of hope for the protection of fundamental rights, the watchdog institutions and indeed for constitutional democracy itself. It has rightly been called the most powerful court in the democratic world, and often an exemplar for courts across the globe. Today in these troubling times, the hopes of the people of India vest in this Court to ensure the rule of law and the Constitution and not an untrammeled rule of the executive,” he has said.

Given the current scenario, he has argues, people like him have a duty to point out any perceived deviations from the court’s “sterling record”.

Also read: Truth as Defence is Central to Prashant Bhushan Sentencing, Supreme Court Can’t Sidestep It

During the first sentencing hearing too, Bhushan had made a similar statement, which the bench had not appreciated. He had said then, quoting M.K. Gandhi, that he would accept whatever punishment the court saw fit and was not asking for mercy.

The Supreme Court’s decision to hold Bhushan in contempt has been widely criticised by retired judges of the Supreme Court and high courts, lawyerspoliticians, members of the civil society and others. It is being seen as an attempt to quash reasonable dissent.

Read the full text of Bhushan’s supplementary affidavit below.

Supplementary Statement by Prashant Bhushan 24-08-2020 by The Wire on Scribd