Prashant Bhushan punished with a fine of Re.1 failing which he shall undergo a simple imprisonment for a period of three months :SC

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In Re: Prashant Bhushan & Anr. …. Alleged Contemnor(S)


decided 31.08.2020


Bench:  Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari, JJ.


Supreme Court has held the alleged Contemnor guilty of contempt and has to pass the order on quantum of sentence.

Decision of Court

The Court, after deep   thought   as   to   what   sentence   should   be imposed on the contemnor, punished him with a fine of Re.1/­ (Rupee one) to be deposited with the Registry of this Court by 15.09.2020, failing which he shall undergo a simple imprisonment for a period of three months and further be debarred from practising in this Court for a period of three years.

Argument by the Contemnor’s Counsel

Court’s decision

The Counsel argued that there is violation of principle of natural justice because a   copy   of   the complaint/petition   filed   by   Shri   Mahek   Maheshwari,   was   not   made

available to the contemnor.

The Court said that since the contempt proceeding was initiated suo moto therefore it is not of any relevance as to whether a copy of the petition filed by Shri Mahek Maheshwari was supplied or not.

The Counsel argued that the contemnor has only exercised it’s fundamental right of free speech under Art 19(1)(a) of Constitution.

The Court held that Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution is a fundamental right and it is subject to Art 19(2) containing reasonable restriction and the same have to be balanced. Furthermore, the Court said that lawyers are not permitted to make any malicious, scandalous and scurrilous allegations against the institution of which they are part

It was  submitted  that  if   defence   of   good   faith,  as   provided  in Section 3(22) of the General Clauses Act is taken into consideration, it will have to be held that the act done by the contemnor was done in good

faith if it was done honestly, may be done negligently.

The Court held that the from perusal of the comments, it can neither be said to be done honestly or in good faith.

It was submitted that applying the doctrine of proportionality the balance will have to tilt in favour of the fundamental   rights   as   against   restrictions.   He  also argued   that reasonableness means substantive and procedural reasonableness and imports proportionality. Thus, he has submitted that the conviction be recalled, and no sentence be imposed.

The Court held that weighing the pros and cons, rights, and limitations it jhas rendered a considered decision regarding conviction, and on consideration of proportionality, the Court finds no room to entertain this submission and hence, it repelled the same. 

It was argued by learned senior counsel that in case the contemnor is sent to the imprisonment, he will attain martyrdom, and he also should not be debarred from the practice.  He further stated that the Court could not pass an order debarring the contemnor from practicing unless a prior notice was issued to him and an opportunity of hearing was given in that regard.

The Court said that they are not afraid of sentencing the contemnor either with imprisonment or from debarring him from the practice because 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.

                                                              Attorney General’s Plea

Learned Attorney General stated that if there is an expression of regret and if the affidavit is withdrawn, perhaps a quietus(end) can be given to the proceeding.

The Court on plea of Attorney General held that since the contemnor declined to withdraw the affidavit therefore proceeding cannot be ended.   

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