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Court cannot abdicate its duty and has to be uninfluenced by the statements published in various articles, Prashant Bhushan fined Rs. 1 for contempt: SC

The SC on August 31, 2020 {IN RE: PRASHANT BHUSHAN AND ANR.} held that the allegations made by the contemnor are scandalous and are capable of shaking the very edifice of the judicial administration and also shaking the faith of common man in the administration of justice.

The SC Bench, comprising of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice B.R. Gavai & Justice Krishna Murari further held that after going through the various averments made in the affidavit in reply for supporting truth as defence, they are of the considered view that the defence taken is neither in the public interest nor bona fide one, but the contemnor has indulged in making reckless allegations against the institution   of   administration   of   justice.     It was held that the averments are based on political consideration, and therefore in its view cannot be considered to support the case of the contemnor of truth as a defence.

It was argued on behalf of contemnor before the SC that the factors relevant for sentencing are the offender, the offence, the convicting judgment, statutory or other defences relating to a substantial interference with   justice,   truth,   bona   fides,   and   public   interest   in disclosure.

The present judgment of the SC decided quantum of sentence to be imposed on the contemnor, after having adjudged Shri Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, guilty of contempt vide judgment dated 14.08.2020.

The SC held that if a scathing attack is made on the judges, it would   become   difficult   for   them   to   work   fearlessly   and   with   the objectivity of approach to the issues.   It was held that the judgment can be criticized. However, motives to the Judges need not be attributed, as it brings the administration of justice into disrepute.

The SC held that the defence taken in the affidavit cannot be said to be either bona fide or in the public interest.  It was held that both the tweets coupled with averments in the reply affidavit are capable of shaking the confidence of the public in the institution as a whole. It was also held that the second tweet is capable of creating an impression that the entire Supreme Court in the last six years has played a vital role in the destruction of democracy.

The Court held that it cannot abdicate   its   duty   and   has   to   be   uninfluenced   by   the   statements published   in   various   articles   published   in   the   media   and   opinions expressed   therein.     It   has   to   decide   the   case   uninfluenced   by such opinions.

It was held that free Speech is essential to democracy can also not be disputed, but it cannot denigrate one of the institutions of the democracy. It was held that the contemnor's 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.   At   the   same   time,   it was held that the SC cannot  retaliate   merely   because   the contemnor   has   made   a   statement   that   he   is   neither   invoking   the magnanimity or the mercy of this Court and he is ready to submit to the penalty that can be lawfully be inflicted upon him for what the Court has determined to be an offence.  

It was held that the contemnor   not   only   gave   wide   publicity   to   the   second   statement submitted   before   the   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. It was held that If the SC does not take cognizance of such conduct it will give a wrong message to the lawyers and litigants throughout the country.   However, it was held by the SC that by showing magnanimity, instead of imposing any severe puishment, it is sentencing the contemnor with a nominal fine of Re.1/­ (Rupee one).

The SC sentenced the contemnor with a fine of Re.1/­ (Rupee one) which is to be deposited with the Registry of the Court by 15.09.2020, failing which it was ordered that he shall undergo a simple imprisonment for a period of three months and further be debarred from practising in the Supreme Court for a period of three years.

Accordingly,   the   present   proceedings   including   all   pending applications, were disposed of by the SC.

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