The Invincible Prashant Bhushan and His Bold Stance Before the Supreme Court

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The Invincible Prashant Bhushan and His Bold Stance Before the Supreme Court

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

Advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan doubled down on Thursday, refusing to apologise for two of his tweets on the judiciary that had prompted the Supreme Court to hold him guilty of contempt of court last week.

In court, he said that he was “pained” about having been “sorely misunderstood” by the court. He reiterated that the two tweets were an expression of his beliefs, and that open criticism is required in a healthy democracy.

“I believe that open criticism is necessary to safeguard democracy and its values,” Prashant Bhushan said. He was referring to the two tweets, one in which he had spoken about the judiciary’s apparent role in “destroying democracy” and another in which he said Chief Justice S A Bobde had denied justice by keeping the courts shut during the pandemic.

The SC, which was due to decide on a sentence for the lawyer-activist today, decided to give him two to three more days “to reconsider” his statement. “You may do hundreds of good things but that doesn’t give you a licence to do 10 crimes. Whatever has been done is done. But we want the person concerned to have a sense of remorse,” Justice Arun Mishra said.

Bhushan, however, declined the offer, saying his statement was “well considered”. “If your lordships want to give me time, I welcome it. But I don’t think it will serve any useful purpose and it will be a waste of time of court. It is not very likely that I will change my statement,” the lawyer said.

Bhushan also went on to paraphrase a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. “I do not ask for mercy. I do not appeal for magnanimity. I cheerfully submit to any punishment that court may impose,” he said.

“Freedom of speech is not absolute to anyone… to me… to press. There’s no problem in being an activist but we have to say this is the line,” Justice Mishra responded, adding that no punishment would be acted upon until the lawyer’s review was decided.

Bhushan’s firm stand before the SC bench, however, drew a lot of support both online and offline. On Thursday morning, a protest was staged outside the Supreme Court in solidarity with the activist, who said during last week’s hearing that he only regretted part of what he had tweeted but stood by the rest of it.

Similar protests were held in other parts of the country as well with #HumDekhenge trending on Twitter.

After his statement was made public, several prominent faces, including activists, politicians and journalists, came out in support.

Prashant Bhushan, meanwhile, who intends to file a review plea against the contempt charges, has said he would consult his lawyers and think over the SC’s suggestion. So this is not likely to be the last time we’ll hear about this case.

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