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“Apologies can’t be coerced” - Dhavan, Prashant Bhushan refuses to apologize

By Ankita Mohanty

The infamous Prashant Bhushan’s contempt case takes another turn as the lawyer-activist refuses to issue a formal apology. Dhavan, Bhushan’s lawyer exclaims that nobody can be forced to tender an apology in contempt proceedings.

The lawyer-activist has always been vocal about his political opinions on twitter and platforms alike and seems like it has finally landed him in grave trouble. In one of his tweets, Bhushan had commented on CJI’s Bobde’s photo astride a Harley Davidson bike. In his second tweet, he had heavily criticized the incumbent and past CJIs.

Although Bhusan has firmly suggested that those tweets were a “bonafide impression about the manner and functioning of Supreme Court in past years”, the Supreme Court seems to have a different opinion. The court has found advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of “serious contempt” and has initiated proceedings against Bhushan on 21 July.

Bhushan has since deleted his tweets and apologized for a portion of his statements on CJI Bobde even as he stood by the rest of his tweets on Bobde and former CJIs. He had reiterated his criticism over the restricted functioning of the Supreme Court during the lockdown and pandemic and said bonafide critique of the actions of the CJI cannot and does not scandalize the court. Bhushan had further added, “Public expression of these beliefs was, I believe, in line with my higher obligations as a citizen and a loyal officer of this court”. He has, in his entirety, refused to issue an apology that the Supreme Court has demanded over the weeks of the case proceedings.

SC bench agrees to refer to an appropriate bench the question of conflict between the right to free speech and suo motu contempt powers of the court in the 2009 contempt case against activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, which was initiated for calling half of 16 former CJIs 'corrupt'. There have been strong arguments from both sides. Recently in a tweet, the attorney general K.K. Venugopal has sided with Bhushan stating, “SC can warn him but not punish him”. His lawyer Dhavan has requested for the case to be closed by a mild reprimand of Bhushan. Dhavan in his statement mentions, "If SC punishes him the controversy will snowball into a bigger one - one group making Bhushan a martyr and the other saying he is rightly punished”. Dhavan further says that the SC can say it disagreed with Bhushan and lay down guidelines barring advocates from publicizing their cases. It can ask Bhushan to be restrained in the future. SC reserves verdict on quantum of sentence to be given to Bhushan, already convicted for contempt of court.

The case has opened doors for many discussions and debates regarding the power vested to Supreme Court and if it’s democratic to exercise such power in an ‘egalitarian’ constitution.

What do you think? What do you think would be the fate of lawyer-activist? Tell us about it in the comments.

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