Contempt case against me is ”a watershed moment for freedom of speech”, says Prashant Bhushan

By Naz Asghar

Aug 31, 2020

New Delhi: Accepting the sentence given to him by the Supreme Court in the contempt of court case, activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan said here on Monday that the case has become a watershed moment for freedom of speech as it seems to have encouraged many people to stand up and speak out against the injustices in the society.

Prashant Bhushan said victory and defeat was not the issue in this case, but whether India has to remain a democracy with right of citizens to raise their voice when things go wrong.

Describing the Supreme Court as ”the last bastion of hope, particularly for the weak and the oppressed who knock at its door for the protection of their rights, often against a powerful executive,” Bhushan said that he never intended through his tweets to disrespect the Supreme Court or the judiciary as a whole, but only wanted to express his anguish, at what he felt, was a deviation from its sterling past record.

”This issue was never about me versus the Hon’ble Judges, much less about me vs the Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court of India wins, every Indian wins. Every Indian wants a strong and independent judiciary. Obviously if the courts get weakened, it weakens the republic and harms every citizen,” he said at press conference here hours after the his sentence was pronounced by the Supreme Court in a contempt of court case of which he had been huilty earlier for his two tweets against the CJI SA Bobde and judiciary which the apex court found derogatory.

Thanking rights activists, lawyers and many other people who expressed solidarity with him, Bhushan said ,”They strengthen my hope that this trial may draw the country’s attention to the cause of freedom of speech and judicial accountability and reform. What is very heartening is that this case has become a watershed moment for freedom of speech and seems to have encouraged many people to stand up and speak out against the injustices in our society.”

He had special praise for the Attorney General K K Venugopal who had  urged the Supreme Court  to let off lawyer Prashant Bhushan with a warning. ”I am so grateful to the Attorney General who spoke on the voice of conscience,” he said

Replying to a question, he said, he would pay the fine of Rs 1 awared by the court, and would also file a review petition against the sentencing and conviction within a month.

He said a writ petition might also be filed for the SC including a provisoion of filing the review petition in such cases, as was the case in criminal and other cases.

Swaraj Abhiyan chief Yogendra Yadav, who is part of the Campaign for Judicial Accountablity and Reform(CJAR) along with Prashant Bhushan, on this occasion announced that they will launch a drive for collection of funds named ‘Rupee One Everyone’ for legal help to all victims of injustice who were langushing in jails for listening to the vioce of their conscience .

He also called for celebrating for one month, from Septenber 2 to October 2, the right to freedom of conscience. ”This should be made a people’s movement, and appealed to all groups and associations to celebrate the ‘freedom conscience’ under their own banner and in their own way.
Another CJAR activist Anjali Bhardawaj also addressed the press conference.

On August 24, when he had been convcted for his tweets on Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and the Supreme Court, Bhushan had refused to apologise.

”My tweets represented this bonafide belief that I continue to hold. Public expression of these beliefs was I believe, in line with my higher obligations as a citizen and a loyal officer of this court. Therefore, an apology for expression of these beliefs, conditional or unconditional, would be insincere,” Bhushan had said..

An apology cannot be a mere incantation and any apology has to, as the court has itself put it, be sincerely made. This is especially so when I have made the statements bonafide and pleaded truths with full details, which have not been dealt with by the Court, he said.

If I retract a statement before this court that I otherwise believe to be true or offer an insincere apology, that in my eyes would amount to the contempt of my conscience and of an institution that I hold in highest esteem, he said.

–India News Stream