After raising the stakes by pursuing criminal contempt proceedings against advocate Prashant Bhushan and convicting him, the three judge Supreme Court bench may have managed to strike a balancing act by letting him off with a fine of Re 1. The catch is that if Bhushan doesn’t remit the amount by September 15, he is liable to undergo three months imprisonment and be barred from practising for three years. After a robust debate over the futility of Supreme Court penalising its critics through the Contempt of Court Act, both the advocate and the judges must let the matter rest here.
The judges have spoken through their 108 page judgement and Bhushan and his lawyers have had their say through some incisive arguments in court and Bhushan’s own powerful statement professing his objections to apologising for the two tweets that “scandalised” the court. Even the Attorney General of India KK Venugopal was opposed to punishment for Bhushan, a factor that may have weighed on the judges while pronouncing the token punishment. The incongruity of judges becoming judges in their own cause was also flagged in recent weeks. Supreme Court must welcome bonafide criticism against it and ignore the opinionated barbs that are certain to keep landing off and on.