Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who has been held guilty of contempt of court and is also facing another contempt matter before the Supreme Court, on Monday refused to retract his statements or tender an apology in the matter. Bhushan, in a supplementary reply in the suo motu contempt proceedings, submitted that if he retracts his statement before the court that he otherwise believes to be true would amount to the contempt of his conscience in his eyes.
The Supreme Court had, on August 20, reserved its order on the suo motu criminal contempt of court proceedings against Bhushan but had asked him to reconsider the statement and submit his unconditional apology by August 24.
“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,” Bhushan said in his reply.
He said that he has nothing but the highest regard for the institution of the Supreme Court. “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,” Bhushan said.
“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 added.
Bhushan said that this casts a duty, especially for an officer of this court like himself, to speak up, when he believes there is a deviation from its sterling record. “Therefore I expressed myself in good faith, not to malign the Supreme Court or any particular Chief Justice, but to offer constructive criticism so that the court can arrest any drift away from its long-standing role as a guardian of the Constitution and custodian of peoples’ rights,” he said.
The senior lawyer said that his tweets represented this bonafide belief that he continues to hold and added that the public expression of these beliefs was in line with his higher obligations as a citizen and a loyal officer of the court. “Therefore, an apology for expression of these beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be insincere. An apology cannot be a mere incantation and any apology has to, as the court has itself put it, be sincerely made,” Bhushan said.
“This is especially so when I have made the statements bonafide and pleaded truths with full details, which have not been dealt with by the Court,” he added. Bhushan was held guilty of contempt of court for two of his tweets, the first one posted on June 29, related to his comment/post on a picture of CJI Bobde on a high-end bike.
In his second tweet, Bhushan expressed his opinion on the role of last four CJIs amid the state of affairs in the country.