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Senior advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan on August 20 said that he was "deeply pained" that the Supreme Court bench had held him guilty of contempt. He said that his two tweets were an expression of his beliefs, and that "open criticism is a need in a healthy democracy."
"I am shocked that the court holds me guilty of malicious, scurrilous, calculated attack" on the institution of administration of justice," Bhushan said in the court on August 20. "I can only humbly paraphrase what the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi had said in his trial: I do not ask for mercy. I do not appeal to magnanimity."
Bhushan was held in contempt for two of his tweets, one about Chief Justice of India SA Bobde's photograph on a motorcycle without a mask and helmet during the coronavirus pandemic, and the other about deterioration in India's democracy and the role of six former CJIs – on August 14.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing Bhushan, had said that the sentencing should be postponed until he has filed a review. The bench, however, disagreed, but Justice Mishra said "no punishment would begin before the review process was complete."
"We will be fair to you, whether or not you are fair to us," the judge said.
After Bhushan's lawyers had said that his tweets should not be regarded as contempt, Justice Arun Mishra offered a few days' time to Bhushan to "rethink his statement". The judge said that Bhushan's "pro bono work was admirable and would work in his favour during sentencing."
Bhushan initially refused the offer for more time, saying, "I don't want to reconsider the statement. As regards giving time, I don't think it will serve any useful purpose." He also said that his remarks were "well-considered", and he was unlikely to change them in a few days.
The bench, however, decided that Bhushan would be given time to reconsider before the final verdict on sentencing. Meanwhile, they asked Dave to complete the legal arguments.
The Supreme Court's decision to hold Bhushan in contempt has received widespread criticism by retired judges of courts, lawyers, politicians, members of the civil society and others who see it as an attempt to quash reasonable dissent.
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