The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India In Re Prashant Bhushan & Anr. [ Suo Moto Contempt Petition (Crl.) No. 1 of 2020], held Prashant Bhushan guilty under Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 and imposed a fine of Rs. 1 after the Hon’ble Supreme Court opted to show “magnanimity”.
The Court observed that “We are not afraid of sentencing the contemnor either with imprisonment or from debarring him from the practice. His conduct reflects adamance and ego, which has no place to exist in the system of administration of justice and in noble profession, and no remorse is shown for the harm done to the institution to which he belongs.”. It was further observed by the Hon’ble Apex Court that the defense taken by Prashant Bhushan that his tweets reflected ‘truth’ which is a valid defense in Contempt law, fail the Twin Test of being in a.) public interest or b.) bonafide. The Apex Court in this regard expounded that “the defence taken cannot be said to be either in the public interest or bona fide one. On the contrary, it is more derogatory to the reputation of this Court and would amount to further scandalizing and bringing administration of justice in disrepute, in which the common citizen of this country has faith and approaches this Court as a last resort for getting justice.”
The bench 3-judge bench comprising of Hon’ble Justices Arum Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari expressed anguish that the judges are silent sufferers as they are not in the position to respond to the allegation made against them in view of judicial discipline and decorum, the Apex Court in this regard observed that “The Judges have to express their opinion by their judgments, and they cannot enter into public debate or go to press. It is very easy to make any allegation against the Judges in the newspaper and media. Judges have to be the silent sufferer of such allegations, and they cannot counter such allegations publicly by going on public platforms, newspapers or media. Nor can they write anything about the correctness of the various wild allegations made, except when they are dealing with the matter.”
It was further held by the court while imposing the fine that
“In the present matter also not on one occasion but on several occasions, we not only gave opportunity but also directly or indirectly pursuaded the contemnor to express regret. Not only that the learned Attorney General had also suggested that it was in the fitness of things that a contemnor expresses regret and withdraws the allegation made in the affidavit in reply, which request was not heeded to by the contemnor. The contemnor not only gave wide publicity to the second statement submitted before this Court on 24.08.2020 prior to the same being tendered to the Court, but also gave various interviews with regard to sub judice matter, thereby further attempting to bring down the reputation of this Court. If we do not take cognizance of such conduct it will give a wrong message to the lawyers and litigants throughout the country. However, by showing magnanimity, instead of imposing any severe puishment, we are sentencing the contemnor with a nominal fine of Re.1/ (Rupee one).”