Bhushan says it is the victory of freedom of speech, and not a victory against the Supreme Court
Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – Hours after the Supreme Court on Monday announced its verdict in the Prashant Bhushan contempt-of-court case, imposing a fine of Re 1, the senior lawyer-activist told journalists that he would respectfully pay the fine but said he will excercise the right to challenge the judgement.
While addressing a press conference at Press Club of India here, Bhushan said his decision to pay the fine was in line with his first statement to the apex court wherein he had said he was there “to cheerfully submit to any penalty that can lawfully be inflicted upon me.”
He said he was even ready to go to jail if the court had ordered so. The court had directed him to deposit the amount by September 15, failing which he will attract a jail term of three months and debarment from law practice for three years.
On June 29, the lawyer had posted tweets criticising the chief justice India Justice Arvind Bobde for posing while riding a Harley Davison bike without a mask amid the coronavirus pandemic. He had also criticised the apex court and its last four chief justices for “destruction” of India’s democracy.
The court found the two tweets of Bhushan contemptuous and took a suo motu cognisance of the matter. He was held guilty for the contempt earlier this month and on Monday the court announced the verdict penalising Bhushan to pay Re 1 in the court registry.
When asked whether he saw the verdict as his victory against the apex court, Bhushan said: “It is the victory of freedom of speech and not a victory against the Supreme Court.
He reiterated that his tweets were not meant to disrespect the Supreme Court but “merely to express my anguish as I felt the honourable court was digressing a bit from its sterling past record.”
He was flanked by Yogendra Yadav, a prominent activist who runs Swaraj Abhiyan and Anjali Bhardwaj, a member of the Campaign Accountability and Judicial Reforms (CAJR).
Speaking with Clarion India on the sidelines of the presser, Bhardwaj said the Supreme Court holding Bhushan guilty of contempt of court is “extremely unfortunate” for exercising his right to express.
She said the acceptance of the verdict did not mean Bhushan and his supporters were in agreement with the verdict and that they would exercise the right to challenge the court order.
“We feel that there should be a proper mechanism in place that will look into the allegations of misconduct,” she added.
During the proceedings of the case, eminent personalities, including former judges, lawyers, politicians, activists, students and ordinary citizens came out in support and solidarity of Bhushan on social media. In a first-of-its-kind incident, some lawyers also held a protest demonstration outside the Supreme Court premises.
Bhushan told journalists that he was grateful for the support which encouraged him to “remain firm and true to his beliefs.” He said he would continue to express truth and his views whenever and wherever necessary.
At the presser, Yadav announced the launch of a campaign by CAJR and Swaraj Abhiyan called “Rupee One, Every One”, with an appeal to people to donate Re 1 to a nationwide fund for activists of ‘freedom of conscience’.
“Prashant Bhushan is privileged that he got the support but there are countless soldiers of freedom of conscience who are left alone and we are creating this fund to support them. He also announced the start of a one-month campaign to celebrate the “spirit of freedom of conscience” and appealed to organisations and unions to join the campaign.