Prashant Bhushan moves SC, seeks review of his conviction in contempt case for his two tweets

New Delhi: Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking review of the order holding him guilty for contempt of court for his two derogatory tweets against the judiciary.

After depositing with the apex court registry rupee one imposed as “nominal fine” as punishment upon him, he filed the petition for review of the August 14 judgement holding him guilty for the contempt of court contending that it suffers from multiple errors apparent on the face of the record of both law and of fact .

Bhushan said that he will be filing a separate petition seeking review of the judgment on Sentence dated August 31, by which the top court had imposed a nominal fine of Re 1 on him for contempt of court.

The lawyer was directed by the top court to deposit the fine with the Supreme Court registry by September 15 and failure to comply would entail a three-month jail term and debarment from law practice for three years

In his review petition, Bhushan said Conviction and sentencing are separate and independent stages of the criminal process, and were correctly treated as such by this Court by first pronouncing judgment in conviction proceedings, before setting a separate hearing for sentencing.

“Thus, the Petitioner is entitled to bring separate petitions for the review of each judgement. Nothing in the constitutional or statutory law as it applies to this Court’s power of review limits this right, his review plea said.

The plea filed through advocate Kamini Jaiswal said that in view of the unique nature of the proceedings under Article 129 for criminal contempt a hearing in open court ought to be granted both on the question of admitting the present petition as well as on its merits.

Bhushan sought review of the August 14 judgement, on the ground that he had written a letter dated July 26 addressed to the Chief Justice of India in which he has sought that pending contempt proceedings against him and the review petition be heard by a bench in which Justice (retd.) Arun Mishra was not a part.

Justice Mishra has superannuated from his post as top court judge on September 2.

Bhushan said that in his letter dated July 26, the reasons clearly show that the matter should never been heard by Justice Mishra, as he orally accused the Review Petitioner of committing contempt of court when he had merely mentioned that it may be inappropriate for a particular judge to hear a particular case in circumstances where conflict of interest was involved.

He said that despite his July 26 letter was addressed to the Chief Justice of India, no action was taken based on the letter and Justice Mishra heard and decided the matter, which itself was a ground for rehearing the entire contempt proceedings against him.

Bhushan said that the petition filed by advocate Mahek Maheshwari seeking contempt action against him, which was taken on record and suo motu contempt proceedings initiated, was not maintainable in absence of consent of the Attorney General and is error apparent on face of the record.

He said that copy of the petition filed by Maheshwari was not given to him despite the request made and therefore have no idea whether it was in the proper form as directed by the apex court in its earlier verdict.

Bhushan said that a perusal of the case record on the website of this case indicates that the Maheswari had along with his petition filed an application for exemption from filing prior permission of the Attorney General.

Therefore, the original Petitioner himself was aware of the requirement of permission of the Attorney General and crafted his petition accordingly. Therefore, entertaining such a petition as a suo motu petition is error apparent on the face of the record, he said.

He added that his tweet dated June 27, concerning the judiciary was taken judicial notice directly on July 22, without following the procedure on the administrative side as mandated by an earlier verdict of the top court.

Regarding non-hearing of Attorney General K K Venugopal in the case, Bhushan said, In fact, the role of the Attorney General is absolutely essential in a proceeding of Suo Motu Criminal Contempt as the Attorney General is the only independent mind that can throw light on if there is any contempt at all, the court being the aggrieved party as also the adjudicator and the alleged contemnor being the defendant .

On September 12, Bhushan filed a writ petition seeking the right of appeal against convictions in original criminal contempt cases to be heard by a larger and a different bench.

On August 14, the top court had held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his two derogatory tweets against the judiciary saying they cannot be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary made in the public interest.

Holding that Bhushan attempted to scandalise the entire institution of the Supreme Court, the top court said, If such an attack is not dealt with, with requisite degree of firmness, it may affect the national honour and prestige in the comity of nations .

The top court had analysed the two tweets of Bhushan posted on the micro-blogging site Twitter on June 27 on the functioning of judiciary in past six years, and on July 22 with regard to Chief Justice of India S A Bobde.

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