The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear lawyer Prashant Bhushan petition to defer the hearing on his sentence The apex court said that it will not hear the petition till Bhushan’s review petition against conviction for criminal contempt is filed and decided.
The three-judge bench of justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari said that the judgement is complete only after the sentence. It gave assurance to Bhushan that no punishment will be acted upon till his review against the order convicting him in the case is decided.
Bhushan had appealed to the Supreme Court to defer hearing on his punishment in a contempt of court case till the time his review petition against the August 14 conviction order is taken up.
The court had taken suo moto notice of two tweets posted by Bhushan on June 27 and 29 where he had accused the present Chief Justice of India (CJI) of closing down courts and past CJIs of destroying democracy.
The top court had on August 14 held Bhushan guilty of criminal contempt for his derogatory tweets, saying they cannot be said to be a fair criticism of the functioning of the judiciary made in the public interest.
In its judgment, the bench had said, “The Indian judiciary is not only one of the pillars on which the Indian democracy stands but is the central pillar. An attempt to shake the very foundation of constitutional democracy has to be dealt with an iron hand.”
Under the Contempt of Court Act, an act of criminal contempt of court can attract a punishment of six months imprisonment or Rs 2,000 fine or both. Bhushan pointed out in his application that in criminal contempt proceedings, the Supreme Court functions like a trial court and is also the last court. There is no appeal to a higher forum once the top court sentences a person for contempt.
Bhushan requested the court to accept his request for deferment in view of the underlying public policy with respect to safeguarding liberty of a citizen under Article 21.