Lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan, held guilty of contempt for his tweets criticising Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and the Supreme Court, has been fined ₹1 by the Supreme Court on August 31.
The court said if he doesn't pay the fine by September 15, he can go to jail for three months or be banned from practicing for three years.
"Freedom of speech cannot be curtailed," the Supreme Court said while announcing the sentence. The court added: "We gave several opportunities to (Prashant Bhushan) to express regret."
The SC bench on August 31 also observed that Prashant Bhushan had brought "disrepute to the court" by giving wide publicity to his statements in media.
Prashant Bhushan had earlier refused to apologise for his tweets, saying it would be contempt of his conscience and the court. "Open criticism was necessary to safeguard the democracy and its values," he had said, adding that he would happily accept punishment.
The Supreme Court had sought an unconditional apology from Bhushan. "You may do hundreds of good things, but that doesn't give you a license to do ten crimes," the apex court had said.
In the last hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal had suggested that Bhushan be let off with a warning. "Bhushan's tweets seek the improvement of the administration of justice... Let democracy follow in this case when he has exercised his free speech... It will be tremendously appreciated if the court leaves it at that," the Attorney General had said.
Prashant Bhushan, in one of his contentious tweets, had menioned that four previous Chief Justices of India played a role in destroying democracy in India in the last six years. Another tweet commenting on a photo of Chief Justice Bobde on a Harley Davidson last month, had mentioned that he was without a helmet and face mask while keeping the court in lockdown and denying citizens their right to justice.